Wednesday, March 09, 2005

THE SABAH SOLUTION

Malaysia is to set-up two “One-Stop Operation Centers” in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi and Zamboanga City that would cater to the needs for traveling documents of deported Filipinos workers willing to return to Sabah. This is what to me is the best move so far in resolving the recurrent problem of mass deportation of Filipinos from the northern Malaysian island of Sabah.

The Malaysian Secretary-General of The Home Ministry Aseh Che Mat had relayed to Department of Foreign Affairs officials that they are sending eight Malaysian immigration agents to process the necessary papers for returning Filipino workers.

I wonder why it took the Philippine government so long to think of this kind of solution especially when in 2002, a mass exodus of nearly 70,000 Filipinos from Sabah became a national disaster that is difficult to forget, as children died of mortal sickness while on board boats that took them to Tawi-Tawi and hundred of lives shattered due to the sudden absence of livelihood and shelter.

Our officials in the Department of Labor and the DFA had been sleeping on their job for far too long it had seemed. I can still remember quite well how the late great Filipino statesman Blas Ople was able to allevaite the problem of unemployement in our country when he was at the helm of the highest labor portfolio in this country so many years ago. In those years, then Labor minister Ople and his trusted and highly-capable cohorts would endeavor to seek the audience of dignitaries and employers in the Middle East region and negotiated a scheme where Filipinos could be hired legally as workers in these oil-rich countries. The Arabs turned out to be more than glad to accede to those requests since their countries needed labor so very badly even as early as that time and Philippines was then already a rich source of skilled labor. Everything that happened after that are what we know now as the modern day phenomenon of Filipino Diaspora and the Filipino overseas workers being the new "national heroes" of this country of ours..

Apparently, it had to take more and more embarrassing crackdown on our countrymen in Sabah before our officials thought of or requested the putting up of a mechanism on how to legalized the status of Filipino workers there. This kind of dimwittedness is what we call as lack of foresight and sleeping in the job.
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