DFA appeals to 'royal army' to come back home

Posted at 02/24/2013 7:24 PM | Updated as of 02/24/2013 7:54 PM

Humanitarian ship to ferry back women from Sabah

MANILA -- The Department of Foreign Affairs urged anew the members of the Sultanate of Sulu’s “royal army” to leave Sabah “for their own safety.”

In a statement released late Sunday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said: "As we have stated in countless occasions previously, we call on the entire group to go back to their homes and families, even at the same time we are addressing the core issues they have raised. Please do so for your own safety."

THE DFA chief said a ship “on a humanitarian mission” will be dispatched later to fetch and ferry back the women and other civilians from the “royal army’s” group.

"We sent the ship to Lahad Datu on a humanitarian mission. We are deeply concerned about the presence of five women and other civilians in the group, and we urge them to board the ship without delay and return home," he said.

Onboard the ship are Filipino-Muslim leaders as well as social workers and medical personnel. The ship, with hull number AT296, will sail from Bongao, Tawi-Tawi to the village of Tanduo in Lahad Datu.

The standoff began when more than 100 Filipinos led by Muda Azzimudie Kiram, the brother of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, entered Lahad Datu in Sabah last February 9.

In a report, Malaysia’s The Star Online said the Friday deadline set for the group to leave "was extended by 48 hours after the Philippines government requested for a four-day extension till Tuesday on the grounds that Manila was trying to persuade the Sulu group to give up their stand.”

Asked for comment, Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Raul Hernandez said in a text message: “Malaysia has not yet officially responded to our request for extension.”

The group said they have claims over Sabah, citing numerous historical accounts and rental receipts from the Malaysian government.