A high-level Philippine mission consisting of representatives from the Departments of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Foreign Affairs (DFA), and Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will proceed to Malaysia this week to manifest the Philippines’ support to the Malaysian effort to resolve illegal migration.

Labor and Employment Acting Secretary Manuel G. Imson said the mission shall be undertaken as Malaysia indicated that it will resume its crackdown on illegal migrants on March 1, adding “the mission shall pursue the best possible bilateral solutions manifesting the positive intention in the region to help Malaysia resolve the matter in the best interests of mutual economic growth and peace.”

The Philippine mission to Malaysia jibes with ongoing and recent moves to improve regional cooperation. The Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had earlier received Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudyohono, who would also reportedly proceed to Singapore this week on another visit manifesting moves towards a “tighter” cooperation in the region.

According to Imson, the Philippine government mission shall negotiate with employers in Malaysia for the re-deployment of the migrants who wish to return there on a documented status. The returning migrants will be assisted in the acquisition of pertinent documents to enable them to return to Malaysia if they so wish, Imson said, as he noted that the deployment of documented OFWs to Malaysia declined by 19.92% to only 6,319 last year compared to 7,891 in 2003.

These developments come as the DOLE said the Philippines formally activated this week the One Stop Processing Center in Zamboanga City to assist returning migrants from Malaysia.

The President had indicated the need to alleviate the plight of the disadvantaged returnees from Malaysia by providing them with temporary shelter and transportation, medical services, and other necessary assistance. The center shall likewise assist the migrants on training and re-training for local employment, and livelihood, and for the possible re-deployment to Malaysia of those who want to return and work there as documented workers.

Earlier, Imson, who met with Philippine government agency heads in Region 9, and Zamboanga City Mayor Celso G. Lobregat to activate the facility, said that another one-stop processing facility will be opened in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi within the week in coordination with ARMM Governor Farouk Hussin, and the ARMM local government unit in the area.

“We continue to appeal strongly to the families of illegal migrants remaining in Malaysia to avail of Malaysia’s voluntary surrender program for migrants rather than face the consequences of the crackdown, and to seek the assistance of our One-Stop Processing Center located at the Metropolitan District Compound, Veterans Avenue in Zamboanga City, and another center the DOLE shall open in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi this week,” Imson said.

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