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Drop in Filipinos heading to Sabah
Published on: Thursday, May 18, 2017
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Drop in Filipinos heading to Sabah
ZAMBOANGA CITY: The number of Filipinos entering Sabah for employment and visitation via the Zamboanga-Sandakan ferry has declined significantly following the implementation of strict requirements by authorities here on all Filipinos leaving the country.Designed to eradicate human trafficking, personnel from the Philippine Immigration Department together with the Philippine Overseas Employment Authority, (POEA), Overseas Worker Association (OWA) and other local agencies including the Philippine National Police (PNP) are now stationed at the departure area of Zamboanga City Port to verify the travel documents of all departing passengers.

Immigration officers would off-load passengers found with incomplete travel documents.

Sabah PKR Chief Christina Liew had urged the state government to insist that only passengers with return ferry ticket be allowed to come to Sabah.

This followed a revelation by the hostage taker last Sunday in Kota Kinabalu that he decided to rob because he had no money to go back.

A check at the Zamboanga City Port deprture area, Monday, saw several passengers bound for Sandakan off-loaded by Immigration officers for failing to produce all the required documents.

It was also learnt that departing Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) are required to get clearance from POEA, OWA, Pag-Ibig, PhilHealth.

This group of passengers are also required to produce their respective worker's contract and ferry tickets at the immigration booth for final verification .

OFW applicants with approved clearances from the relevant agencies will have to pay a total clearance fee of Php 4,500.

The POEA fee is Php 100.00, OWWA (Php1,247.00), and PhilHealth Insurance (Php 2,400).

They are also required to have Philippine-based registered recruitment agrncy when applying for approval of worker's contract.

The Philippine Government is urging all OFW applicants to immediately report to the authorities of any individuals who do not comply with the government fees. The investigation also shows that departing passengers will not face difficulties when seeking immigration approval if all required travel documents are complied with and properly endorsed by the local agencies.

Filipinos going to Sabah for visitation are required to produce a letter of invitation from the sponsor, marriage contract and photo copy of Identification Card (sponsor) and return ticket for verification by the immigration officers.

Applicants are also obliged to present a document to show proof of relationship between the applicant and sponsor.

Apparently, the present system adopted by the authorities on all travellers is acceptable by the public .

The system has also effectively eradicated corruption practices at the port.

Despite the handful of new requirements for Filipino travellers and strict implementation from the concerned local authorities, the majority of Filipinos welcomed the measures.

"The Immigration officers here are very strict and its not easy now to go to Malaysia as compared the previous years," Rosemarie from Zambianga said.

She said the implementation of the new requirements is logic and proper because it gives passengers a sense of safety.

"It took me more than two months before I finally managed to board the vessel today ( Monday) ....this is because the recruitment agency of my Malaysian employer in Sabah was not properly advised of the new policies of the authorities here," Rosemarie who was off-loaded earlier confessed.

38 year-old Trinidad who was invited by her relative to visit Sabah also said that her earlier scheduled trip was delayed because of ignorance of the new travel documents.

"In fact, the delay could have been avoid if only the Filipinos in Sabah were properly advised by the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on the new regulations here… seems majority of the Filipinos are facing 'blank wall' when it comes to the proper new travel regulations," the mother of three said.

Immigration officers when interviewed confirmed that the load factor of the vessel plying the Zamboanga -Sandakan route has dropped as a result of stringent verification of travel documents of passengers since the start of the Duterte administration.

The immigration officer said the coordinated strict measures imposed on all Sandakan bound passengers was aimed to eradicate the human trafficking problem in the country and help neighbouring Sabah address its illegal immigrant problem.

"People now realise the importance of our stringent measures on all travellers...and its this reason we don't face problems when passengers are off-loaded," they stressed.

Meanwhile, officials of the shipping line operating the Zamboanga-Sandakan weekly ferry service has also confirmed the downward trend of passenger load in every voyage .

"Only passengers with complete travel documents are allowed to board our vessel...its good for our passengers and to everybody, although the decline is affecting our business," the shipping line said.

Sandakan bound passengers are required to be at the departure area 5 hours before the scheduled 3pm voyage ( every Monday) because travellers wiill have to submit themsleves for interview with the relevant local agencies. - Nikko fabian


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