KOTA KINABALU: Malaysia must deport the 750,000 Filipinos who are in Sabah if the claim by Philippines Senator Francis Tolentino is true, says Pakatan Harapan.
"If indeed such a huge presence is shown to be officially true, what are the actions of our federal government to address this matter?
"Since Senator Tolentino acknowledges that these are Filipinos and are stateless in Sabah, they are therefore illegal immigrants and should be repatriated back," Sabah Pakatan leaders said in a joint statement on Friday (Sept 30).
The joint statement was signed by Sabah Pakatan chairman Datuk Christina Liew, Upko president Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau, Sabah DAP chairman Datuk Frankie Poon, Sabah PKR chairman Datuk Sangkar Rasam and Sabah Amanah chairman Lahirul Latigu.
They said that the Philippines government must also be prepared and willing to accept their citizens back.
Senator Tolentino, had, among others, said there were "750,000 Filipinos living without health, social security benefits and are stateless in Sabah."
"We believe the number is high but nevertheless, a figure of 750,000 is still very significant and must be taken seriously by our government," read the statement.
"The Malaysian government must strongly condemn the statement made by Senator Tolentino that the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should seize the opportunity on their claim towards Sabah.
Senator Tolentino made the remarks following a disputed US$14bil award granted to the self-proclaimed heirs of the defunct Sulu Sultanate against the Malaysia Government by a Paris arbitration court.
"This is a dangerous statement coming from an elected representative from the Senate of the Philippines and for him to openly challenge the sovereignty of this nation should be regarded as a threat to the security of Sabah and its people," they said.
They said that such statements could incite hatred and growing resentment towards the Malaysian government and the state of Sabah due to alleged ill-treatment they face here, especially being denied access to health and social security benefits.
Following Tolentino's statement, Philippines foreign affairs secretary Enrique Manalo said that they were looking into the legal implications of the recent decision of a French arbitral court in favour of Sulu heirs and its implication to Manila's sovereignty claim over Sabah.
Putrajaya and Sabah have rejected Manila's and Sulu's historical claims on Sabah which gained independence in 1963 from the British and officially joined the Malaysian federation under the auspices of the United Nations.