At least 260 Returning Filipinos from Sabah (REFS) have arrived in different parts of the island provinces in the Bangsamoro autonomous region, receiving prompt guidance and assistance last month, according to the Ministry of Social Services and Development (MSSD).
The REFS arrived in batches – 136 via Bongao Port in Barangay Poblacion, Bongao, Tawi-Tawi on April 20; 79 via the ports of Sulu and 45 in Basilan on April 17, the MSSD posted in a Facebook post coupled with photos.
Last March 7, the 7th batch of REFS comprising 262 individuals arrived through the same backdoor channels and were led back to their different places of origin in the region, the MSSD said.
Workers from the MSSD field offices in the island provinces provided the batches of REFS from the stages of their embarkation from boats up to their return to places of origin, after undergoing proper process prescribed under the current pandemic, it was learned.
The MSSD workers alongside local health workers administered medical and relief services to all REFS batches, which also received welfare goods including one sack of rice each, and hygiene kits.
“Prior to embarkation, all REFS have undergone RT-PCR testing in Malaysia as part of the necessary health protocols before their official return to the Philippines in order to ensure that all of them tested negative for COVID-19,” the MSSD Facebook post said.
Upon their arrival in the ports, the REFS also proceeded to holding areas wherein they had undergone health profiling.
MSSD also conducted a separate profiling of the REFS to look into further interventions that can be provided to them through the ministry’s social protection programs.
The Philippine Coast Guard, the provincial and municipal local government units, and the disaster risk reduction management offices are in close coordination for the turnover as well as contact tracing of the REFS to their hometowns.
Moving forward, there will be other batches of REFS who will arrive in the months to come. PR