Friday, March 15, 2013

Govt moves to prevent humanitarian crisis over Sabah conflict

DILG Central News

Govt moves to prevent humanitarian crisis over Sabah conflict

March 14, 2013

photo of Sabah evacuees in Mindanao Manila, Philippines The Philippine government is stepping up efforts to prevent a potential humanitarian crisis with the feared exodus of tens of thousands of Filipinos from Sabah to the southern provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi as a result of the continuing standoff and uncertainty in the Malaysian-ruled territory.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas today met with Social Welfare and Development Secretary Dinky Soliman, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Trade and Industry Undersecretary Zeny Maglaya, Maritime Industry Authority Nic Conti and National Food Authority Administrator Orlan Calayag to coordinate government efforts in ensuring the welfare of evacuees in the three provinces.
“Nagpulong po kaming mga tagapangasiwa ng iba’t ibang ahensya ng pamahalaan sa utos ni Pangulong PNoy upang siguraduhin na may sapat na pagkain at sapat na suporta ang ating mga kababayan doon po sa Basilan, Sulu, at higit sa lahat sa Tawi-Tawi,” said Roxas after emerging from the meeting in Camp Crame.

Roxas said based on latest information, there are already about 1,500 evacuees from Sabah, majority of them staying in Taganak Island and Bongao in Tawi-Tawi and Jolo in Sulu.
He said the President is on top of the efforts to assist the evacuees and his directive is for all concerned government agencies to be ready in case the number of evacuees swells to crisis proportions.

“Sa ngayon 1,500. Maaring bukas-makalawa ay sampung libo na kaagad iyan, kaya bago pa mangyari iyon, naghahanda na tayo,” Roxas said.

“Ang utos ng Pangulo ay siguraduhin na nasa mabuting kalagayan unang-una ang ating mga kababayan na naninirahan sa Sulu, Basilan, at Tawi-Tawi at pangalawa yung mga evacuees. Kailangan ay handa ang pamahalaan, handa ang pagkain, handa ang gamot para masiguro ang kanilang kaligtasan at mabuting kalagayan,” he said.

Soliman said as early as Friday, March 8, some 450 evacuees have arrived in Sibutu and Bongao in Tawi-Tawi and Siasi in Jolo. She said they were attended to by social welfare workers who gave them food and fare money so they could go to their relatives in Mindanao.

Last Sunday, 512 evacuees also ended up in remote Taganak, the nearest Mindanao island to Sabah. Soliman said Navy ships from Bongao brought food for them and later ferried the evacuees to Bongao so they could also stay with relatives and families.

Soliman said the Labor Department and the Bureau of Immigration also assisted the evacuees in securing proper documents especially those who intend to return to Sabah.
She said the evacuees either have no travel and immigration documents or have incomplete work papers.

Soliman said a team composed of DFA, DSWD, and PNP personnel were also sent to Felda in Lahad Datu, Malaysia to visit an evacuation center for affected Filipinos so they could offer assistance there.

Meanwhile, Calayag said the NFA has sent the DSWD offices in Bongao and Jolo 1,000 sacks of rice each for inclusion in the food packs for the evacuees.

He said the NFA is sending an additional 100,000 sacks of rice in affected areas to ensure that supply and prices remain stable. Maglaya of the DTI said except for rice, prices of other commodities in the areas are normal.

Conti said the MARINA has already alerted commercial vessels plying various routes in Mindanao to be on standby for the possible shipping of goods and other supplies to remote parts of Sulu, Basilan, and Tawi-Tawi should the need arise.

"Itong mga commercial vessel na bumibyahe sa mga lugar na ito, pwede po natin silang bigyan ng direktiba na pansamantalang iwanan muna ang kanilang ruta upang tumugon sa pangangailangan na maghatid ng pagkain at iba pang pangangailangan,” he said.

Alcala, for his part, said the DA is working with the DSWD in packaging a livelihood program for evacuees who intend to stay in the Philippines for good.

PNP Deputy Director General Felipe Rojas for his part said the PNP has deployed teams to provide to provide security to the refugees whom he said are vulnerable. The PNP will also assist in securing food warehouses and in maintaining the orderly distribution of relief goods to evacuees.###

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