AFP PHOTO / MOHD RASFAN
MANILA, Philippines - Philippine diplomats have been sent to Sabah to assist Filipinos affected by the deadly standoff between Malaysian police and supporters of the Sulu Sultanate, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Sunday, March 3.
“We would like to see how we could work with local authorities in further assisting our nationals affected by the situation,” DFA Undersecretary for Special and Ocean Concerns Jose Brillantes explained in a statement.
Brillantes, sent to help end the crisis, said the consular team in Lahud Datu is on a "humanitarian mission" to extend consular assistance to the wounded and other affected Filipinos.
A week ago the DFA dispatched a Navy ship to evacuate women and civilians from the site of the standoff, but the vessel remains at the border, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte noted on Sunday.
In a radio interview, Valte said that Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario has officially requested full access to all detained and wounded Filipinos.
"We have social workers there to provide support, assistance, and counseling to the families of those who perished," she explained.
At least 21 people -- 14 militants and 7 Malaysian policemen -- died in 2 separate firefights in Sabah. Malaysia's national police chief however did not confirm whether the second clash was linked to the standoff between local security forces and supporters of self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.
The 74-year-old Kiram claims to be the heir to the Islamic sultanate of Sulu, which once controlled parts of the southern Philippines and the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo.
President Benigno Aquino III has sharply criticized the intruders and urged them to surrender unconditionally, but a spokesman for Kiram has said his followers were prepared to die to defend their historical claim over Sabah. - with reports from Carlos Santamaria/Rappler.com