ZAMBOANGA CITY, Zamboanga Peninsula — Returning Filipinos who arrived in the city from Sabah are thankful that they are finally home. A total of 395 Filipinos returning from Sabah finally arrive on Sunday, July 5, after their travel was facilitated by the government.
As per DSWD data, the boat stopped over Bongao, Tawi-Tawi where some 298 passengers disembarked. The remaining 97 are composed of 13 from Zamboanga City, 3 from Zamboanga Sibugay, 5 from Zamboanga del Sur, 8 from Zamboanga del Norte, 16 from Basilan, 36 from Sulu, 1 from Mapun, Tawi-Tawi and 15 from other regions. The DSWD will ferry the non-Zamboanga City passengers to their respective provinces, while the Zamboanga City-based returning Filipinos will still be subject to quarantine in an isolation facility there.
An approximate 5,300 returning Filipinos will return from Sabah in the coming months, said Director Ochotorena. Batches composed of not more than 395 persons will arrive in 15-day intervals, and all are be subject to RT-PCR for COVID-19, he added. “If they tested positive, they will not be allowed to board,” he emphasized.
Meanwhile, returnees from Sulu, Basilan and the one from Mapun who cannot immediately go home due to unavailability of boat trips will temporarily stay at the DSWD Center in barangay Talon-Talon, said Office of Civil Defense (OCD) regional director and Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (RDRRMC) chairperson Manuel Luis Ochotorena. The REFs were provided with cash assistance, travel allowance, meals and family food packs from the DSWD and the office of Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go.
In 2018, Junjun (not his real name) left the Philippines in 2018, hoping for greener pasture in Malaysia, but was arrested due to lack of proper documents. “Napreso kami dun,” he said. (We were sent to prison.)
Despite the risk, Junjun chose to take his chances and leave. He worked for a while in a logging company, but was arrested by Malaysian authorities after having been discovered to lack documents.
After all the obstacles he has encountered, Junjun has decided to leave Malaysia for good and returned home without a single centavo in his pocket. His experience is a commonality shared by returning Filipinos who arrived.He pleaded the Philippine government to provide livelihood interventions
“Yun yung kailangan namin, ayaw na naming bumalik ang hirap doon.”
(That is what we need, we do not want to return, it is very difficult there.)
In a press briefing, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Regional Director Fatima Caminan said government has put in place livelihood interventions for the returning Filipinos.
“We would like our returning Filipinos to stay in the Philippines and access the programs of government so they won’t have to be forced to go back and look for livelihood in difficult situations.”Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Regional Director Fatima Caminan
The REFs’ arrival was facilitated by government agencies that include Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Office of Civil Defense (OCD), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Ministry of Social Services and Development – BARMM, Philippine Information Agency (PIA), Joint Task Force Zamboanga (JTF-Zamboanga), National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), PNP-Maritime Group, Zamboanga City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (ZCDRRMO), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ), Armed Forces of the Philippines – Western Mindanao Command (AFP-WESTMINCOM), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Department of Health (DOH), Police Regional Office 9 (PRO-9), the Office of Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, the City Health Office (CHO) and the local government units of Zamboanga City and of the ROFs’ home provinces and cities.