MANILA: A senior Mindanao official revealed the government has re-activated a crisis management committee to draw up contingency plans for the possible exodus of 500,000 Filipinos from Malaysia due to the Sabah standoff.
Mujiv Hataman, the governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino ordered the committee’s reactivation to prepare for a “worst case” scenario involving Filipinos residing in Sabah.
“While we are hoping that the crisis will soon be resolved, we are still preparing for the worst case scenario,” Hataman, the committee chairman, told a roundtable discussion on the issue with editors of The Philippine Star, one of the country’s largest circulation dailies.
On Friday, a preview of things to come arose when the Philippine Navy reported its interception of two boats from Sabah loaded with 121 people and about 2,000 sacks of rice.
A Navy spokesman said the passengers said they were fleeing from the unrest in Sabah and were bound for the island province of Tawi-Tawi.
Meanwhile, Hataman revealed food packs, relief goods and medicines for about 500,000 people are now ready for the Filipinos returning to their places of origin from Sabah to Mindanao.
According to Hataman, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has assured Aquino there would be no forced deportation of Filipinos who have lived for years in Sabah.
Officials earlier explained that hundreds of Filipinos were recently deported from Malaysia because they had no working permits and were thus considered as illegal migrants.
Nevertheless, they are preparing for the possibility that the Filipinos would be forced to evacuate from Sabah if the standoff would not be resolved soonest, Hataman said.
The committee, he disclosed, is also drawing up plans to address the adverse impact of the ongoing Sabah hostilities on the region especially the supply of food in Tawi-Tawi, a component province of ARMM along with Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu and Basilan as well as Marawi City.
Hataman pointed out that since the standoff started, the prices of basic commodities have been soaring by 30 to 40 per cent in Tawi-Tawi due to the closure of the shipping routes between the province and Sabah.