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TAWI-TAWI, Philippines – BRP Sultan Kudarat – the same ship that intercepted 2 ships carrying Filipinos bound for Tawi-Tawi, left Bongao port Sunday, March 10, to fetch around 480 Filipinos and deliver supplies in Taganak Island.
Taganak is part of Turtle Islands – a municipality within the territory of Tawi-Tawi that is only 45 minutes away from Sandakan, Sabah via speedboat.
Although conflict in Sabah has not spread to Turtle Islands, residents in the area have been cut off from their main source of basic necessities since the Malaysian authorities barred any entry into Sabah.
BRP Sultan Kudarat is expected to arrive in Taganak Monday noon (March 11) after an estimated 17 hours at sea.
Carrying sacks of rice, boxes of canned goods, bottles of mineral water and medicines, the ship will stay in Taganak for about two days. It will distribute the supplies and accommodate Filipinos who want to go back to the Philippines.
Along with the Philippine Navy, a group composed of Department of Social Welfare and Development officials and volunteers, as well as the Philippine Marines, will carry out “humanitarian operations” in the area, a navy official said.
Filipinos from Sabah have been arriving in separate locations across the Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-Tawi (Basulta) area, mostly coming from Sandakan. They have recounted the atrocities they have experienced in Sabah as Malaysian authorities started a crackdown on illegal immigrants.
Out of the reported 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah, about 250 Filipinos have voluntarily gone back home due to the Sabah conflict, according to reports.
At least 72 families arrived in Simunul Island Tuesday, March 5. About 120 repatriates from Sandakan, Sabah, arrived in Bongao Friday night. In Siasi, Sulu, at least 55 Filipinos also arrived Thursday evening.
Local government officials here have warned that local government units might not have the resources to support the influx of evacuees. – Rappler.com