MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) appealed to the estimated 200 Filipinos who refused to leave Sabah in Malaysia to come home.
This after Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman called up Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Friday morning to give his assurance that the Malaysian government is addressing the presence of the Filipinos, some of whom are armed, in Lahad Datu, Sabah through negotiations to encourage them to leave peacefully.
“We therefore urge these concerned individuals to return to their homes and families,” the DFA said in a press statement.
Del Rosario also sought the assurance of the Malaysian authorities to ensure that the rights of those Filipinos, who are permanent residents in Sabah and who may be among the group, are respected.
At the same time, increased patrols and tighter security measures have been put in place in waters off Tawi-Tawi and adjoining islands.
Earlier, DFA Spokesperson and Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez said Philippine security and defense officials are coordinating with their counterparts.
Hernandez said they do not want to speculate on what really transpired after several versions of the incident surfaced.
“We are still at the stage of gathering the facts and we don’t want to come out with tidbits of information because we don’t want to speculate on the incident,” he said.
Malaysian police say the group of Filipinos, armed with an assortment of weapons, claimed to be the Royal Armed Forces of the Sulu Sultanate.
The Malaysian government also reported that its security forces have surrounded the Filipinos on the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo Island.
A Malaysian newspaper reported that the Filipinos refuse to be deported to the Philippines and insisted on staying in Sabah.
“We want to be responsible because whatever we say at this point will have implications as to what we are doing in that area for our people and also will have implications on our bilateral relations,” he said.