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DSWD clarifies process of assistance provision to Filipinos being deported from Sabah

QUEZON CITY - Through its Field Office IX’s Processing Center for Displaced Persons (PCDP), the Department of Social Welfare and Development will be providing services for around 7,000 undocumented Filipinos in Sabah, Malaysia scheduled to be repatriated starting this February. Along with other agencies, the DSWD will provide services for the Filipinos – men, women, and children – to ensure their smooth reintegration into Philippine society. The PCDP is at the DSWD main unit that assists repatriated, and displaced individuals.

DSWD Sec. Judy M. Taguiwalo said that the Central Office is working with other government agencies such as the Dept. of Foreign Affairs and in close coordination with the DSWD in the ARMM to address the needs of repatriates in Zamboanga and possibly in Tawi-Tawi.

The Malaysian government through its naval ships will transport and bring the Filipinos scheduled for deportation to Zamboanga. There, a team comprised of members of the DSWD, the DFA, and the Department of Health (DOH) will welcome them and take them to PCDP where the DSWD will provide for their immediate needs such as food assistance, shelter, and hygiene requirements. The travel time from the other deportation centers in Sabah to Sundakan, Malaysia takes eight hours by bus, while it takes another 16 hours from Sundakan to Zamboanga, Philippines via sea travel.

In the PCDP, social workers will interview them, guided by an intake sheet. The deportees will be asked to provide information regarding their personal circumstances, their experiences in Sabah and what led to their migration there; and finally what their plans are if they have any as they resume their lives in the Philippines.

It is also at this step of the integration process that the immediate economic and psycho-social needs of the repatriated individuals are determined.

DSWD Sec. Judy M. Taguiwalo said that it was important that the deportees are interviewed by the social workers and provided with psycho-social assistance.

“Having been away for so long from the Philippines, some will need assistance locating their families and relatives. Psycho-social interventions for the repatriated individuals -- and in some cases even their families at home – are necessary to help them cope with their new situation,” she said.

Services provided by the DSWD’s Crisis Intervention Unit (CIU) are also readily made available in the center such as transportation, food, and medical assistance. Referrals to the local government units (LGU) in the region for livelihood, skills training as part of reintegration plans for the deportees are also made.

“In the meantime, individuals assessed to be in need of special attention or have experienced exploitation in the process of living in Malaysia and/ or during the process of deportation are brought to centers corresponding to their sectors for further assistance. For instance, women who experienced sexual harassment or abuse are encouraged to seek assistance from the local women’s center,” said Sec. Taguiwalo.

Various government agencies will be at PCDP to promptly assist the deportees. The DOH assists with labor-related issues and concerns, the DOH provides health check-ups and consultations; the Bureau of Immigration assists with the processing of travel papers. During humanitarian missions, representatives from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) also join the team. This is to assist those who have problems with their birth registration.

DSWD will ensure the safety and welfare of the more vulnerable members of undocumented Filipinos in Sabah - women, children, and sickly individuals.

Repatriation of undocumented Filipinos have been ongoing for years, with some 1,500 to 3,200 Filipinos being repatriated each month. The suspension of Sundakan-Zamboanga Ferry Service in September last year, after M/V Danica Joy 2, the lone vessel plying the route, capsized, caused Malaysia’s Deportation Centers to become over extended. As of now there are around 7,000 Filipinos in four detention centers namely in, Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Tawau, and Labuan.

Many of the undocumented and overstaying Filipinos in Sabah have worked as fruit gatherers, vegetable vendors, and workers at construction firms, and as farmers and fishermen. Many have also worked in palm oil plantations for decades, building their own families and communities. (DSWD)

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