Another One-Stop Processing Center is being prepared for activation in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi following the formal opening of the first center in Zamboanga City in preparation for the expected influx of returnees from Malaysia as that country resumes its crackdown against illegal migrants on March 1, Labor and Employment Secretary Patricia A. Sto. Tomas said.

As this developed, the main Philippine government mission to Malaysia consisting of representatives from the Departments of Labor and Employment, Foreign Affairs, and Social Welfare and Development also proceeds to take up the migrants workers’ issue with Malaysia.

Undersecretary for labor relations Manuel G. Imson said the activation of the one stop center in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi near the Philippines’ maritime border with Malaysia will bring the services of the DOLE-led inter-agency closer to returning migrants from that country.

Imson, who earlier activated the first one-stop center in Zamboanga City, said that the DOLE led-interagency task force is also preparing for the possible use of Philippine Coast Guard and/or navy vessels to complement, as necessary, commercial vessels in ferrying returnees.

The labor relations undersecretary also said the DOLE has also activated a Task Force Malaysia to coordinate and monitor the assistance to returnees at the one-stop centers in Zamboanga City and Bongao, Tawi-Tawi.

Imson said the two one-stop centers in southern Philippines will alleviate the plight of disadvantaged migrants from Malaysia by providing them with temporary shelter and transportation, medical services, and other necessary assistance. The facilities shall likewise assist returnees in obtaining training for local employment and/or livelihood. Those who wish to return and work in Malaysia will be assisted in the acquisition of legal documents.

In the meantime, Director Chita DG Cilindro of the DOLE’s Region 9 Office reported that for now, the influx of repatriates from Malaysia at the One Stop Center in Zamboanga City is at a manageable level.

Director Cilindro said some 17 repatriates mostly from Zamboanga City, Jolo in Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, registered, and were assisted by the center, on its formal opening last February 14.

She indicated that returnees from Malaysia are being assisted by an inter-agency team manning the DOLE-led center from DOLE-Region 9, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Department of Foreign Affairs, National Statistics Office (NSO), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and the Office of Muslim Affairs (OMA).

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