As Sabah standoff continues: Resolve the conflict, protect Fil migrants

As Sabah standoff continues

Resolve the conflict, protect Fil migrants – President Aquino must cease his double standard approach in dealing with territorial issues



The Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM) expresses grave concern on the safety and security of Filipino migrants residing and/or working in Sabah as the standoff between the Malaysian authorities and the Royal Army of Sulu, who is now occupying a village in the said island, continues at high alarm.


The Royal Army of Sulu, a group of around 100 armed people under the leadership of Agbimuddin Kiram, occupied the village of Lahad Datu early February 2013 claiming and demanding rightful ownership of Sabah. Yesterday, March 1, an exchange of gunfire occurred between the Malaysian police and the members of the said Royal Army. Ten people from the Royal Army and two from the Malaysian police have been reportedly killed.


In the light of an intensifying battle between the armed groups, the APMM fears that such a standoff, if not resolved properly, immediately and peacefully, would impact on the more than 800,000 Filipinos living in Malaysia, many of whom are in Sabah. Already, there have been news reports of Filipinos in Malaysia being laid off from jobs and massive arrest, detention and deportation of undocumented Filipino are happening as a result of the standoff.


More than layoffs, it is racism, discrimination and ostracism that APMM is concerned about.

“We fear for the lives, livelihood and dignity of the many Filipinos in Sabah,” says Ramon Bultron, managing director of the APMM, expressing the possible intensification of the Malaysian government’s crackdown on undocumented migrants, specifically Filipinos.


According to APMM, the Malaysian government did not really cease in its policy and operation of arresting, detaining and deporting undocumented migrants in Sabah. A February 25 news report from Business World Online mentioned of 150 Filipino deportees arriving late night in Mindanao.


However, the Philippines government is caught unprepared yet continuously insensitive on the plight of its own people living and working in Sabah. President Aquino must ensure and prioritize the protection of Filipinos in Sabah.


APMM also calls on the government of President Aquino to cease from his double standard approach on the issues of territorial boundaries and sovereignty. "The President is quick in filing international claims in the Spratly Islands but done nothing to reclaim Sabah. Is it because the US government is more interested in Spratly than Sabah? Again, the President must put the interest of its own people as a priority," adds Bultron.


Bultron calls on both governments of Malaysia and the Philippines to immediately resolve the standoff and discuss the issue of territorial claim and sovereignty in the most peaceful manner. The Philippine government in particular, he demands, should not leave the Filipinos, both the Muslims occupying the Lahad Datu village on one hand and the many Filipinos living in Sabah on the other, at the hands of the Malaysian authorities.


“No one’s life or dignity should be violated in this crisis. What passion the Philippine government put on in its claim on Scarborough shoal should be equal to its will in resolving this very urgent concern,” concludes Bultron.