ZAMBOANGA CITY – About 395 illegal Filipino immigrants, who were detained in different detention facilities in Sabah, were deported to the Philippines by the Malaysia government on board M/V Antonia, a cargo commercial vessel of the Aleson Shipping Lines serving the Zamboanga City Sandakan, Malaysia route.
The first batch of deportees arrived in this city shortly before noon Sunday, July 5, on board M/V Antonia Aleson. Most of the 395 deportees were female, minors and children,
However, local residents here expressed fear that the deportees could be afflicted with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The Malaysian government is set to deport a total of 5,300 Filipino illegal immigrants, who are currently detained in different detention facilities in Sabah.
The deportees, who arrived Sunday, represented the first batch of Filipinos that the Malaysian government is set to deport to the country.
The Malaysian government will deport 400 Filipino illegal migrants every 15 days until all the 5,300 Filipinos will be deported to the country.
Of the total, 299 were from the province of Tawi-Tawi, 204 from Bongao, 61 from Sitangkai, 14 from South Ubian, nine from Sapa-sapa, three from Mapun, five from Simunul, and two each from Panglima Sugala-2 and Languyan.
The remaining 96 deportees were from Sulu (36), Basilan (16), Zamboanga City (13), Zamboanga Sibugay (3), Zamboanga del Norte (8), Zamboanga del Sur (5), General Santos City (2), Davao City (1), Bukidnon (1), Bohol (1), La Union (2), Lanao del Sur (1), Cavite City (1), and Siquijor (1).
The deportees were met at the local port here about 10 a.m. Sunday by local and national government officials.
Among them were Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Director Manuel Luis Ochotorena, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DWD) Director Fatima Caminan, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Incident Commander Capt. Vincent Bingbong Fiesta, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) representative Imelda Kangiluhan, and local heath office officials of this city.
Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar said the deportation activity should be put on hold as the city was still “not prepared” to receive the deportees.
Malaysian medical teams conducted swab tests on the deportees to make sure they were not infected with the coronavirus when they return to the Philippines.
The Malaysian government also assured the Philippine government that any deportee who will test positive for COVID-19 will not be deported.
Those positive will be treated until their test turns negative, and only then will they be deported to the Philippines, the Malaysian government said.