February 28, 2013
THE standoff in Sabah, Malaysia between Malaysian security troops and armed followers of Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III is jeopardizing the future of nearly 800,000 Filipinos living and working in Malaysia, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas said yesterday.
Speaking at Camp Crame, Roxas said President Benigno Aquino’s top priority is to ensure the safety and security of tens of thousands of Filipinos staying in the oil-rich island and other parts of Malaysia.
“Nagsalita na ang ating Pangulo at talagang nangingibabaw sa priority niya ang kaligtasan ng ating mga kababayan doon, more or less 180 ang ating mga kababayan doon na nasa peligro at ito yung nasa isip ng Pangulo kaya nanawagan s’ya na pauwiin na sila ni Sultan Jamalul,” he said.
He was referring to an estimated 180 followers of Sultan Kiram already being surrounded by Malaysia forces in a village in Lahad Datu town.
President Aquino on Tuesday warned a defiant Kiram he would face the full force of the law including arrest unless he orders the withdrawal of his armed followers from Sabah.
“Dagdag pa doon, more or less 800,000 ang mga kababayan natin ang naghahanap-buhay sa Sabah at saka sa Malaysia. Napakahalaga na manatiling maayos ang relasyon ng Pilipinas at saka ng Malaysia dahil ito hanapbuhay na ito ay malalagay sa alanganin. Madadamay sila, mga inosente sila, so eto yung nangingibabaw sa pag iisip ng ating Pangulo. Unang-una yung kaligtasan ng ating mga kababayan at yung pagpapatuloy ng paghahanapbuhay ng ating mga kapwa Pilipino doon sa Sabah,” Roxas said.
Roxas said President Aquino has ordered the Department of Trade and Industry to provide other means of logistical support to the Filipinos staying in Sabah or those depending on goods coming from the oil-rich island.
“Yung DTI ay inatasan ng Pangulo na magprovide ng other means of logistical support dahil yung tawiran nga ay nilagyan ngayon ng border control ng Malaysia at saka ng Pilipinas. So yung mga dating produkto kasama na dyan de-lata, bigas, etc na nabibibili sa Sabah at pinapasok sa Tawi-Tawi, sa Bongao, sa Sulu ay natigil. So nagmamahal ang presyo ng mga bilihin dito sa mga lugar na ito dahil manggagaling doon po sa mas malalayong lugar yung supply nila, pero inatasan na ng Pangulo ang DTI na tugunan itong pangangailangan na ito,” he said
The DILG chief also maintained that the incursion of Kiram’s armed followers into Sabah was not the way to pursue the sultanate’s claim to the territory.
“Hindi ito ‘yung tamang paraan para tugunan o i-pursue ‘yung claim na ito. Hindi na isusubo ‘yung 180 na kababayan natin sa isang sitwasyon na mapanganib para sa kanila. Sangayon sa ating Pangulo, hindi ito ang tamang paraan para tugunan itong claim ng pamilya Kiram at meron namang ibang fora para dyan. Sa ngayon ang mahalaga ay yung ligtas at mapayapang paglutas nitong sitwasyon na ito,” Roxas said.
Philippine National Police chief Director General Alan LM Purisima yesterday said they are ready to arrest the armed supporters of Kiram once they return to the country.
“Once they reach the boundary of the Philippines, we will be arresting them because they are violating the law, they are carrying weapons in public and the crime is being committed in the presence of law enforcers,” he said.
Purisima said they will also file criminal charges against Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram III should they find enough evidence against him.
He also said in the meantime they are securing Kiram and his family and supporters and are taking all necessary measures to prevent possible violence in Mindanao in the wake of the standoff in Sabah, Malaysia.
“We are securing the family of Sultan Kiram and the other families involved. We are also preventing more people, particularly those carrying weapons from going to Sabah just to ease the tension,” Gen. Purisima said.
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