Gov’t girds for possible humanitarian crisis in SouthBy Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Aquino administration has started preparations to prevent a possible humanitarian crisis that may arise from the crackdown of the Malaysian government on the supporters of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III in Sabah.
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas on Tuesday led an interagency meeting in Camp Crame convened on orders of President Aquino to map out the government’s plan to address the possible problems that may arise from the return of illegal Filipino immigrants from Sabah.
“The President wants the heads of government agencies to ensure that there will be sufficient supply of food and government support to our countrymen in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi,” Roxas told reporters later.
“The President ordered us to ensure the safety of Filipinos living in those areas and that the government is ready in case there will be an influx of evacuees,” he added.
Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman said some 1,500 undocumented Filipinos in Sabah had arrived in the coastal towns of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi since Friday.
Asked if the exodus had resulted in a humanitarian crisis in Mindanao, Roxas said: “There is none, for now at least.”
Soliman said the government was expecting more Filipinos to leave Sabah as Malaysian forces continued to pursue the sultan’s followers.
She said most of the evacuees, numbering around 450, arrived at Siasi in Sulu, and at Bongao in Tawi-Tawi, from Lahad Datu and Sandakan on Friday.
“We are extending assistance to them by providing them meals. We helped them to return to their homes in Tawi-Tawi, Sulu and Zamboanga,” Soliman said.
Orlan Calayag, administator of the National Food Authority (NFA), said over 2,200 sacks of rice were delivered to some areas in Tawi-Tawi and Sulu for the arrivals in evacuation centers.
100,000 sacks of rice
Calayag said the NFA was preparing for the delivery of 100,000 sacks of rice to Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu from Southern Tagalog.
“We have enough stocks of rice (in that part of Mindanao). There is no reason for traders to hike the prices of other basic commodities there,” said Trade Undersecretary Zeny Maglaya.