THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) today said Philippine embassy officials in Kuala Lumpur have confirmed that its augmentation team were able to visit Filipinos who were affected by the Sabah conflict and are now staying in evacuation centers in Felda, Sahabat in Lahad Datu.
According to the DFA, the needs of the estimated 500 Filipino who were displaced because of the violence there are now being appropriately addressed.
"The (Philippine embassy) team was able to meet with Filipinos there," said DFA Spokesperson Raul Hernandez. "They confirmed that (the Filipinos there) now have adequate food and they are being extended medical assistance."
According to Hernandez, the Filipino evacuees came from nearby villages and were earlier asked by the Malaysian government to leave so they will not be further affected by the escalating conflict.
However, Hernandez said the Philippines' request for a "corridor" for non-combatants and women in Sabah to leave the area as well as full access of the Philippine embassy team to Filipinos who are accused of being followers of the Sultanate and are currently under the custody of Malaysian authorities have yet to be granted by Malaysia.
Also, the request by the Philippines that a humanitarian ship be allowed to ferry the wounded and other members of the group back to their respective homes and families has not been granted as of press time.
"We are still waiting for the Malaysian government to grant our request for full access," Hernandez told reporters in a press briefing today at the DFA headquarters in Pasay City. "When we are able to meet them and find out their condition, we can extend the assistance that they need."
"They have not cited any reasons yet why they have not granted our requests," he added.
Last Sunday, Hernandez said a high ranking DFA official met with the Malaysian ambassador to the Philippines to reiterate the said requests.
"We want them to answer and let us know immediately and let us help our people," said Hernandez.
Likewise, he said the DFA has yet to receive any confirmation from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DFA) about the reports of human rights violations in Sabah allegedly committed by Malaysian authorities against Filipinos there.
"We have not yet confirmed any information on that," Hernandez said. "We have not received (from the DSWD) any documentation on that."
Before the Philippine government files any charges, Hernandez explained that the first thing that will be done is to "gather those stories and reports and make sure we are able to validate and confirm those before we go to the next step."
"We have to be responsible," he pointed out. "We have to go through the process of documentation validation and confirmation before we take actions."
"What is being done now is the DSWD and other agencies in Tawi-tawi, Sulu and Basilan will document these reports and later on validate on them," he said.
Amid the Sabah conflict, the DFA said it will continue to push for stronger bilateral relations with Malaysia.
"We do have a close relationship with Malaysia," said Hernandez as he noted that the issue concerns both countries. "This is something we would like to further enhance specially during this challenging times."
"It is very important for both of us to be able to communicate exactly our demands," he added.