KOTA KINABALU, Sept 10 ― Facing a battle against illegal immigrants, Sabah is hoping to engage with the Philippine government to ensure its repatriated citizens do not return to the state.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal said that the government needs to put a stop to the thousands of Southern Filipinos deported every year who make their way back to the country.
“I have already indicated and discussed with Tan Sri Muhyiddin, if possible, to talk to the Philippine government as well, G to G, how to ensure that these people, once they’re back to their country ― they can come back here but they have to come with passport as well. We cannot just allow these people to penetrate all this, and go through these saluran tikus.
“These are the things we need to be very careful about,” he said when speaking to reporters.
The state had just announced the introduction of a new special temporary pass (PSS), which would be issued to some 600,000 foreigners, mostly Filipinos, currently holding the IMM13, sijil burung burung and census pass issued since the 1970s.
When asked whether the Philippines’ resistance to setting up a consulate here would impede government efforts, Shafie said that there were ways the state could manage the issue.
“We will manage it because it is within our control. What is important for us is we know they are not Malaysians. If they want to come they can come as tourists or workers but they have to have a permit,” he said.
Shafie stressed the importance of the pass, which would aid enforcement efforts in identification and also help the government to monitor the movement of foreign nationals.
The pass was also an incentive to discourage foreign labour from leaving and moving to Indonesia’s new capital Kalimantan, which is expected to experience a development boom soon.
“That part of the region will develop very fast. I hope the Indonesian workers in our plantations will not go back to their hometown. The moment they go back and we don’t have enough labour, the plantations cannot survive.
“We have to be mindful that we need foreign labour in Sabah. There is a need for us to regulate them,” said Shafie.
On the recent reiteration from the Philippine government that it would continue its claim on Sabah, Shafie said that it was clear to the international community that Sabah was a part of Malaysia.
“There was a referendum done, it was quite clear, a legal decision, an international resolution,” he said, referring to the referendum by the Cobbold Commission in 1962, which he recounted attending in his hometown of Semporna with his mother.
“Well, they can just speak louder and louder but the world knows about this.
“I was there with my mother in my hometown Semporna when the Cobbold Commission came down, asking whether we prefer to be in Malaysia... all our forefathers, relatives were shouting ‘why not’, so we have decided,” he said.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr recently reiterated that it would not back down from its decades-old claim on Sabah, adding that it would not set up an embassy in Kota Kinabalu, despite the large number of its citizens here.
The foreign ministry again stated that it did not recognise and will never entertain any claims by any party on Sabah.