KOTA KINABALU: A Philippines assistance office, opened in Sabah six weeks ago, has suspended operations.
The office headed by Consular Officer Louis Cruz was helping Filipino nationals in Sabah obtain travel documents and operating from a rented house in Tanjung Aru near here.
“I am aware of the closure,” President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's East Asean Growth Area (EAGA) special envoy Paul Dominguez told The Star when contacted in the Philippines by telephone.
Asked whether Manila was permanently closing its assistance office in Sabah, he said: “Please refer to our embassy.”
Philippine Embassy officials in Kuala Lumpur could not be reached for comment.
Ambassador Jose Brillantes was posted back to Manila late last year and since then his duties have been taken over by charge d' affaires Norberto Basilio until the arrival of his successor.
However, Presidential Assistant for Mindanao Jesus Duresa when contacted said there was only a change of consular teams in Sabah.
“We will continue with our assistance programme,” he said.
Malaysia had repeatedly requested Manila to set up a consulate in Sabah for more than three decades to handle the welfare of the state's Filipino immigrants, said to number nearly 300,000.
Manila had however balked in establishing a consular office in Sabah due to the country's longstanding claim over the state.
The Philippines government moved to set up the Kota Kinabalu assistance centre on Nov 16 following police operations against illegal immigrants that saw thousands of undocumented Filipinos and Indonesians being deported or returning home voluntarily.
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