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Filipino ‘TNTs’ In Sabah: Diplomatic Bargaining Chips

July 24, 2008

Crackdown on Flipino TNTs in Sabah

Crackdown on Flipino TNTs in Sabah

The real reason for the intensified expulsion of undocumented Filipinos (TNT’s or Tago-Ng-Tago) in the disputed territory of Sabah, which has been under formal Malaysia control since 1963, has finally been admitted in a tangential way by Malacanang.

A report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer quotes presidential alter ego or ‘little president’ Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita as saying, “you can’t disregard the Sabah issue, but we can’t connect all these issues at once. Otherwise the goodwill that we have with the other country will be lost.”

Mr. Ermita made the remark in the context of the latest round of talks between Manila and Kuala Lumpur (actually the 5th RP-Malaysia Working Group on Migrant Workers held against the backdrop of the expulsion of the latest batch of Filipinos from Sabah.

Ermita was careful to say that the dialogue was held “under an atmosphere of common understanding of the need to solve an immediate problem.”

So here, the Philippine official has let the cat out of the bag: the current concern is the manner the Filipino TNTs are being expelled, most after being jailed for months on end.

By that remark, Ermita reveals that Manila is maintaining its policy of putting the Sabah claim of the Philippines in the back-burner, while Malaysia is using the deportations to nudge the Philippines to take action.

This is all too apparent given the conflict reports last week about the heirs of Sultan Jamalul Kiram The First allegedly relinquishing their claim to the territory and denials from other members of the sultanate.

What cannot be denied is that Malaysia has through the year continue to pay the sultanate ‘rent’ on the ‘perpetual lease’ which, as far as the claimants are concerned, has long expired.

Last reports put the annual payment at over P70,000.

So what has really emerged is that the Filipino illegals in Sabah variously estimated at a low of 200,000 to a high of 400,000 or 500,00 are the diplomatic bargaining chips in the long drawn out territorial dispute.

As for the expelled Filipinos, many of them originally from Sulu, they simply will ‘cool their heels’ and venture back to Sabah because “there are no jobs in our home towns, our families no longer want us and while we are discriminated against and even jailed in Sabah we will risk going back because here you cannot eat shame.”

Indeed this human drama will continue with the Philippine government not really willing, much less able, to face the issue squarely.

Both the Philippine Senate and House of Representatives have frozen action of the new Baselines Law. Apparently, low on their list of priorities is the reintegration of our compatriots in Sabah.

If this is not deplorable, and tragic, nothing else is:Filipinos abandoned by their own government and society

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 25, 2008 4:50 am

    Good of you to bring up the matter of Filipinos and Sabah. Time someone with standing in the Philippine journalistic sphere took up their plight and the issue of the Philippine Sabah claim.

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