MANILA—Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo on Monday assured that her department will exert all efforts to help settle Filipino migrant workers returning to the country.
Taguiwalo made the assurance following reports that Sabah will begin to deport thousands of illegal immigrants from the Philippines using the assets of the Malaysian Royal Navy this February.
News reports have quoted Malaysian Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman that preparations for the mass deportation were being finalized following the agreement between Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and President Rodrigo Duterte last November.
President Duterte has agreed to give his full cooperation to Malaysia, while the latter has committed to loan its naval ships to deport Filipinos with no legal documentation.
According to Malaysian reports, the deportation centers in Sabah have already exceeded their capacity with more than 7,000 undocumented migrants. The process of deportation will be via the Sandakan Port to Zamboanga.
“President Duterte has said that our ‘kababayans’ (compatriots) in Malaysia who stand to be deported will not be encouraged to seek clemency. Instead, they will be assisted during the process of deportation to ensure that their return to the Philippines will be as smooth as possible. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is one of the agencies that will work to help ensure this,” Taguiwalo said.
She added that the Chief Executive mentioned in November that the 7,000 undocumented Filipino workers who will be deported will be given access to health care and education.
President Duterte has also said that he will appeal to neutral agencies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), to help build a hospital for Filipino migrants, and that Filipino medical personnel will be deployed to these health facilities to assist in the provision of services.
“For our part, our Protective Services Bureau (PSB), DSWD-Field Office 9 (in Zamboanga) and the DSWD-Field Office in the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) are already in the process of putting together a plan of action to help our ‘kababayans’. We will provide them with assistance that is within the means of the department to ensure that their immediate economic needs are met,” she said.
The social welfare chief also said that the returning Filipinos will be given food and medical assistance, as well as information on other DSWD services they can utilize as they begin their new lives in the Philippines.