DOLE: Latest 289 deportees not connected to Sabah row PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 06 March 2013 14:54

Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday instructed the DOLE Regional Coordination Committee in Zamboanga Peninsula to work together and be fast in beefing up the One Stop Shop Processing Center (OSSPC) to provide assistance to Filipino deportees from Sabah, even as she emphasized that the 289 arrivals assisted by the DOLE the other day were "regular" deportees, and their deportation were not in any way connected to the tension in Sabah between the Malaysian authorities and the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu.

"I visited Zamboanga City to get the best handle of the situation that might involve our OFWs in Sabah. I was informed by our field officials that the 289 are 'regular deportees' who came from all over Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia through regular commercial vessels from Sandakan," she said.

"In fact, our data show that 195 deportees from Sandakan, Sabah arrived on 6 January, while another 109 deportees arrived on 12 January, bringing the total deportees to 897 this year alone. The transportation expenses of these deportees were shouldered by the Malaysian government," she added.

Baldoz said that because of this seeming uptick in the number of deportees, she had ordered the DOLE Regional Coordination Committee strengthen the OSSPCm Sabah at the height of the Malaysian crackdown on illegal immigrants in 2005.

"We have the template on how to deal with the arrival of deportees and we are activating it and strengthening it just there will be an influx of deportees,” she said during a meeting of the RCC which was attended by the heads of the DOLE Regional Office, OWWA, POEA, TESDA, and the NCMB. The heads of the PRC and the NLRC did not make it to the meeting.

The OSSPC, located at the Area Vocational and Rehabilitation Center in Mampang, Zamboanga City, was created through Administrative Order No. 115 on 5 March 2005. Baldoz, then Administrator of the POEA, supervised its operations, even visiting Bongao in Tawi-Tawi and Sandakan and Kota Kinabalu in Sabah to coordinate with Malaysian employers and authorities for the safe return to the Philippines of undocumented OFWs and their safe and legal return to Malaysia.

The OSSPC provides various services to the deportees, including transient stay, passport services, NSO birth certificate issuance, NBI clearance issuance, TESDA training, POEA processing of OEC, OWWA membership, reintegration services such livelihood, capability building, and entrepreneurship skills, and referral for local employment.

The OSSPC Baldoz was also informed by the RCC officials that they have already established a Crisis Management Committee to respond just in case there will be an influx of deportees.

"The DOLE is ready to help facilitate the smooth arrival of the deportees and we are ready with our reintegration programs and other services. However, we must work in convergence with other national agencies and local government authorities," Baldoz said, citing the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the DOLE partner that profiles the deportees, provides food, accommodation, transportation, and other humanitarian and support services.

Malayian immigration records show that there are 57,500 Filipino workers with work permit in Sabah as of 2010. These Filipinos went to Sabah illegally and did not pass through POEA processing. There are another 95,951 illegal workers registered under the Malaysian's Operation Bersepadu in 2010.