Mar 6, 2013

Palace fears possible influx of Sabah-based Pinoys to Mindanao

The ongoing armed conflict in Sabah between followers of a Filipino sultan and Malaysian security forces may prompt some 800,000 Filipinos there to rush home and cause a “peace and order problem” in three Mindanao provinces, a MalacaƱang official said Tuesday.

“Yung 800,000 Filipinos, ‘pag biglang umuwi sa Pilipinas ‘yan, it will be a peace and order problem sa Basulta (Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi),” said presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda at a press briefing.

He said this was the reason why President Benigno Aquino III has asked Malaysia's leader to assure the safety of the Filipinos who work or live in Sabah.

“Hindi ka kaagad makaka-create ng trabaho para sa 800,000 in the course of one day. And that’s the reason why the President has asked [Malaysian] Prime Minister Najib kung puwedeng huwag namang apektuhin ‘yung 800,000 Filipinos [doon],” he said.

Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi are the provinces nearest to Sabah, where followers of Sultan Jamarul Kiram III are shooting it out with Malaysian security forces who want them out of the area.

Lacierda said officials in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) are studying possible contingency plans in case the thousands of Filipinos in Sabah decide to go home. “Pinag-aaralan po ngayon. Sa ARMM, kaya nagpulong po si Governor Mujiv Hataman dahil ito po ay mga constituents niya.”

Meanwhile, Lacierda maintained that the government continues to study the Philippines’ claim to Sabah.

However, unlike previous statements towards the Philippines’ claim over other disputed territories like the Spratly Islands, Lacierda declined to say if the country’s claim to Sabah is strong, saying instead that the Departments of Justice and Foreign Affairs are studying the claim.

“That is being studied right now by the DOJ and the DFA. Let me be clear: I am [in no position] to say whether we have a [strong case],” he said. — Patricia Denise Chiu/KBK, GMA News


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