Labor and Employment Secretary Patricia A. Sto. Tomas today disclosed that a total of 280 Filipino deportees from Malaysia, mostly from Sabah, have been repatriated to Zamboanga City.

Sto. Tomas cited a report of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration in Region 9 that the so called “halaws” (or deportees in the Malaysian language) arrived in the city via several commercial vessels this week, the latest batch of which arrived on board the ship MV Mary Joy at 12 p.m. yesterday.

The labor and employment chief said the Philippine government is rendering the necessary assistance to the deportees via a joint inter-government team composed of personnel from the Department of Labor and Employment and its OWWA, and the Departments of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Foreign Affairs (DFA).

“The DOLE, in coordination with these agencies, shall continue to closely monitor these repatriations and ensure the necessary assistance to Filipinos deported from Sabah to Zamboanga City,” she said.

OWWA Administrator Marianito D. Roque cited a report of OWWA Region 9 Director Samuel S. Madrid that the 280 Filipinos arrived on board the vessels M/V Mary Joy which accounted for a total of 259 deportees on February 2, and on February 9, and the rest on board the MV Danica Joy on February 5, and MV Weesam Express on February 8.

At same time, Roque apprised Sto. Tomas the inter-agency team led by DOLE and OWWA also received and assisted three victims of illegal recruitment at the seaport in the said city.

The three victims pointed to one Amalia Pastoriza Decena of Lumbia District, Pagadian City as the perpetrator of the alleged crime. They said they were issued tourist visas by the illegal recruiter instead of actual working visas for employment.

Roque said the DOLE-led team provided temporary shelter for the three victims at the DSWD Crisis Intervention Center (CIC) for registration and profiling prior to the formal filing of their complaints against the suspected illegal recruiter before the POEA and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

“We continue to strongly warn would-be overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) against the menace of illegal recruitment and to report, at the first sign, such illegal activity so that government authorities will be duly alerted and help avert the victimization of vulnerable applicants,” Secretary Sto. Tomas said.

To report suspicious, illegal recruitment activity, would-be OFWs should call up the POEA hotlines at (632) 7221155 or 7221144. In Zamboanga City they may call up the DOLE’s Region 9 Office at tel. nos. (062) 9931877 or 9912673, and/or report the same to the nearest police station.

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