PCG intercepts Filipino migrant workers fleeing Sabah

ZAMBOANGA CITY — The Philippine Coastguard (PCG) has intercepted a wooden-hulled vessel ferrying 63 Filipinos, who fled Malaysia amid the crackdown on illegal migrant workers, a PCG official said Monday.

Lt. Commander Noriel Ramos, Zamboanga Coastguard Station commander, said the vessel, M/L Al Hapidz, skippered by Jawadi Adjilani was intercepted around 3 p.m. Sunday near the shore of Barangay Baliwasan, this city.

Ramos said M/L Al Hapidz came from Sandakan, Sabah–a Malaysian state that the Philippines has a dormant claim–and entered the country via Bakungan Island in the municipality of Turtle Islands, Tawi-Tawi.

Bakungan (Greater Bakkungaan) Island is at the very edge of the international treaty limits separating the Philippines from Malaysia.

Ramos said that before sailing to this city, M/L Al Hapidz made a stopover in Isabela City, the capital of Basilan province. Investigation showed that 41–25 adults and 16 minors–of the 63 people aboard the vessel were undocumented.

He said they profiled the passengers, including the remaining 22, who have identification cards and travel documents, and were subsequently turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Most of the passengers were found to be residents of Sibuco and Sirawai towns in Zamboanga del Norte and Barangays Sangali, Sta. Catalina and Upper Calarian, this city. At least 10 of them visited their relatives and are returning anytime to Malaysia, and the others are factory workers.

The undocumented persons are currently housed at the processing center for displaced persons of the DSWD in Barangay Mampang, this city.

The Malaysian government has recently resumed the crackdown on illegal migrant workers under an operation dubbed as “Ops Mega 3.” Teofilo Garcia, Jr/PNA-northboundasia.com