Friday, February 15, 2013

200 Filipinos in Sabah urged to leave peacefully

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 16): 200 Filipinos in Sabah urged to leave peacefully

Malaysia is asking an estimated 200 Filipinos, initially reported in the media as members of a breakaway faction of a Philippine Muslim rebel group, to leave Lahad Datu in Eastern Sabah peacefully, the Dept. of Foreign Affairs said Friday.

This was conveyed by Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman in a phone call to Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, assuring that Malaysia is addressing the presence of the Filipinos, some of whom are armed, in Sabah.

Malaysian media earlier reported that the Filipinos “intruded” into the remote coastal district of Lahad Datu on Tuesday. They have reportedly been surrounded by police and were ordered to surrender their weapons.

According to the DFA, the activity of this Filipino group, whose presence in the area remains a mystery, was “not sanctioned” by the Philippine government.

Del Rosario sought the assurance of the Malaysian authorities to ensure that the rights of those Filipinos, who the DFA claimed are “permanent residents in Sabah and who may be among the group,” are respected.

“In this regard, we therefore urge these concerned individuals to return to their homes and families,” the DFA said in a statement.

It also said that Philippine military and police authorities are exchanging information and closely consulting with their Malaysian counterparts in efforts towards an immediate resolution to this incident.

At the same time, increased patrols and tighter security measures have been put in place in waters off Tawi-Tawi and adjoining islands, it added.

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