Twitter: @edd1819, Instagram: @bluestar0910, Facebook: SDN — Science, Digital & Current Affairs
By EDD K. USMAN
(SDN) — SOME 5,000 Filipinos, “mostly undocumented” in Sabah, will be sent home in batches starting July 3.
Zamboanga as usual will be the port of disembaration back to the Philippines.
SDN — Science & Digital News learned about this from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
An official of a BARMM ministry relayed this over the week, saying the region received information about the “deportation” of more than 5,000 Filipinos staying in Sabah. “Most of them are undocumented,” he points out.
“We are being swamped by the return from Manila of LSIs (locally stranded individuals) and the ROFs (returning overseas Filipinos),” the BARMM minister who sought anonymity said. ROFs are overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and students.
The BARMM official said over 5,000 LSIs and ROIs had now set foot in the areas of the region, with the biggest number in Lanao del Sur.
Add to that list the impending arrival of undocumented Filipinos from Sabah, he added.
BARMM is composed of the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, and the cities of Lamitan, Marawi, and Cotabato, and some villages in North Cotabato
In fact, the BARMM official revealed, the autonomous government had written a letter to Malaysia through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) “requesting to delay the sending home of our countrymen, and to do it in batches.”
He said the first batch was supposed to be on June 30.
Apparently, Malaysia agreed to delay a bit the sending home of the undocumented Filipinos who are mostly from Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Basilan and other parts of Western Mindanao (Region IX).
An unnamed Malaysian government official in an exchange of messages with SDN confirmed the BARMM letter.
“OK, brother, there was such a request,” he confirmed.
The Malaysian official said the first batch of 395 people will depart Sabah on July 3 heading for Zamboanga City.
Next batches will still have to be discussed and will depend on the first batch, he added.
Part of the BARMM request includes the testing for Covid-19 of the Filipinos using real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and then to send home first only those with negative results.
“Initially, we requested that they undergo RT-PCR testing in Sabah so only those with negative results should take the boat and they can proceed early to their provinces,” the BARMM official said.
On the other hand, the Malaysian official said the Filipinos will undergo testing for the novel coronavirus before their voyage.
“Everyone will be subjected to RT-PCR test before leaving. Since it’s a very expensive test with high percentage accuracy, the government of the Philippines will bear the cost,” he said.
“We will conduct the test there (in Sabah).”
He added that the DFA and the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) of the Philippines, as far as he knows, have already agreed to receive the first batch, and the next batches with a gap of 15 days.
The BARMM also requested the 15-day gap to give way for the 14-day quarantine of Filipinos arriving from abroad.
BARMM’s task force on Covid-19 is addressing jointly with the national government task force the arrival of the Filipinos from Sabah. (SDN)