November 12, 2016 at 12:01 am
F. Pearl A. Gajunera
DAVAO CITY—Malaysia has approved President Rodrigo Duterte’s proposal to build a school and hospital for Filipino migrants in Malaysia although illegal migrants will have to be repatriated to the Philippines, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. said the school and hospital for Filipinos were among the matters that were agreed upon in bilateral talks between Duterte and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak during Duterte’s visit to Kuala Lumpur.
“The Malaysian government agreed it will benefit the Filipino community in Malaysia who migrated there and also those 7,000 [Filipinos] who are in jail but we still need to process their papers,” Yasay said after Duterte revealed the plan in a speech to Filipino expatriates in Kuala Lumpur.
Duterte told hundreds of cheering Filipino expats that he wants to extend Philippine government services to Filipino migrants in Malaysia.
“I will ask [the Malaysian] government to intervene. We will have to put up schools there and hospital. We will ask a neutral agency [for help, like the World Health Organization] but the people will come from us,” he said.
“We will deploy Filipino nurses and teachers. I feel for them. Most of them are Tausug but they are Filipino and they should be attended to,” Duterte added.
Like the Samal. Yakan and Bajau tribes, the Tausug can be found in many parts of Malaysia and Indonesia with their homeland in the province of Sulu which was governed by an independent sultanate until the advent of the Philippine republic.
Called Suluk in Malaysia, part of the Tausug homeland was Sabah in Malaysia until the British East India Company made Sabah part of the Malaysian federation in 1963. Today, Suluks complain that they are treated like second-class citizens by the Malaysian government, particularly in Sabah.
Their plight worsened when Agbimuddin Kiram of the Sultanate of Sulu and hundreds of Tauusug fighters raided Sabah in February 2013 to reassert the sultanate’s claim on Sabah. Malaysian Suluk were accused of abetting the Filipino Tausugs and many of them were detained.
Yasay said around 7,000 Filipinos “who illegally migrated” to Sabah would be deported to the Philippines after the latest bilateral talks.
Meanwhile, Duterte said he had invited Malaysians to invest in infrastructure projects in the country, particularly in Mindanao.
He said Malaysian investors have shown interest in infrastructure development, building of regional centers, joint ventures in agribusiness, halal-certified products, and high value post-harvest processing facilities.
He said that he already tasked the Department of Trade and Industry to ensure that the Malaysian government will have a smooth flowing entry on the trade and industry sector.
“I tasked the Department of Trade and the Industry to follow through and ensure trade and investment with our 10th largest trade partner as it continues to grow, and I refer to Malaysia,” he added.