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Thursday, April 25, 2024

DFA eyes registration of Pinoys in Sabah

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The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday said the government is working on the registration of about half a million “stateless” Filipinos in Sabah.

DFA Undersecretary Eduardo Jose de Vega stressed it is now the Philippine Embassy in Malaysia’s undergoing project, which “will take years” to complete due to the lack of a government office in the area still disputed by both countries.

De Vega noted that there are about 770,000 Filipinos in Sabah, including 550,000 who remain undocumented.

“It is not lack of interest [that they are not documented], but more often than not, lack of identification documents which deter them from birth registration,” de Vega said.

De Vega shared that once the undocumented individuals become Filipinos, they will be provided with services available to Filipino citizens, including assisting them in case of local legal issues.

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Currently, services being provided to undocumented individuals are coming from the government of Malaysia.

Meanwhile, they have no rights to education because Malaysian laws state that non-citizens or those without permanent residency cannot access education there.

The Philippines and Malaysia have competing claims over Sabah, which is located south of Philippines’ Mindanao region and north of Malaysia’s Borneo island.

Asserting that it is the successor state of the former Sultanate of Sulu, the Philippines still claims Eastern Sabah on the basis that it was only leased by the sultanate to the British North Borneo Company in 1878.

However, Malaysia considers the dispute a “non-issue,” basing its interpretation on the 1878 agreement of cessation and the rights of residents of Sabah self-determination when they joined the Malaysian federation in 1963.

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