MinDA pushes for Sabah consular office

By Nef Luczon

December 28, 2018, 8:17 pm

Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Secretary Abul Khayr Alonto (left) speaks on topics concerning the agency from the Bangsamoro Organic Law, Marawi rehabilitation, and international affairs, during the "Talakayan (Discussions)" talk show organized by the Philippine Information Agency Region 10, on Friday (December 28) in Cagayan de Oro. (Photo by Nef Luczon)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY -- The Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) is planning to recommend the establishment of a consular office in the capital of Sabah, a Malaysian state in which the Philippines has a dormant claim.

MinDa Secretary Abul Khayr Alonto said the establishment of a consular office in Kota Kinabalu primarily aims to serve as a refuge for overseas Filipino workers, especially those who remain undocumented.

Alonto said there are about 800,000 OFWs in Sabah, which is geographically closer to the Philippines than to Malaysia through Tawi-Tawi and the southernmost islands of Palawan.

"I've been to a hotel (in Sabah). From cooks to the managers, they are all Filipinos. I asked one, who is from Pagadian City. She has two children who are already graduates in college who are also working there (in Sabah). But they could not just simply leave," he said.

Alonto noted that there are still outstanding issues concerning Sabah between the Philippines and Malaysia.

However, the MinDa chief said the welfare of the OFWs in the disputed territory remains a concern and that the government must find a way to ease their plight.

Putting a consular office in Kota Kinabalu, he said, would not affect the Philippine claim on the territory as it is "not part of the (Philippine) claim on Sabah."

Sabah, or the North Borneo, has been in dispute by the two countries since the 1870s. The territory was originally ceded by the Kingdom of Brunei to the Sultanate of Sulu, but residents there voted to become part of Malaysia when it became independent from Great Britain in 1963. (PNA)