Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Safety of the 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said on Tuesday that President Benigno Aquino III has already asked Malaysian Prime Minister Najib for the safety of the 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah, in the wake of escalating armed conflict between Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram's followers and the Malaysian police security and armed forces.

The Malaysian government launched Tuesday air strikes on Kiram's group as security forces sought to end the three-week standoff.

Earlier reports quoted Prime Minister Najib Razak as saying that the Malaysian government had no choice but to quell militant invaders in Sabah.

What the Philippine government is concerned now, Lacierda said, is the safety of the 800,000 Filipinos residing in Sabah.

"The government is concerned for the 800,000 Filipinos in Sabah, and also for those men and women and children that the men who joined Lahad Datu -- the men who (were) left behind here in Basulta, in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi," he said.

"That's the reason why also (Foreign Affairs) Usec. (Jose) Brillantes and the Ambassador to Malaysia Ed Malaya (were) on the ground in Sabah to make sure that the 800,000 Filipinos will not be affected," he said.

Malacanang said the Philippine government had done everything possible for a peaceful resolution in the Sabah standoff.

"For the past three weeks, we have done everything possible from sending emissaries, asking them (armed followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III) to come back and we will talk, and all these pleas fell on deaf ears. Hindi po nagkulang ang pamahalaang Aquino tungkol sa pagprotekta sa kanila," Lacierda explained in a press briefing.

"We have done everything possible, and we continue to do everything possible to peacefully end this standoff.

Unfortunately, the position taken by the Kiram family is a position that leads down to violence," he said.

"The longer this invasion lasts, it is clear to the authorities that the invaders do not intend to leave Sabah," said Najib.

"The government must take action to safeguard the dignity and sovereignty of the country as required by the people," he added.

As this developed, Lacierda said the fate of the estimated 180 Filipinos in Lahad Datu is now in the hands of the Sultanate of Sulu who continue to make a defiant stand.

"The fate of the 180 people in Lahad Datu lies with those who continue to make a defiant stand. Our position has not changed since Saturday morning, and so it is with the Raja Muda Kiram and those followers in Lahad Datu," he said.

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