• Melo Acuna

Test kits needed in Western Mindanao island provinces; Commanding general downplays video

Test kits needed in Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi; undocumented Filipinos in Sabah up for deportation

MANILA – With three deaths of suspected COVID-19 related incidents in Sulu recently, Lt. General Cirilito E. Sobejana said it would be better for government agencies to send test kits to the island provinces in Western Mindanao.

Speaking over Tapatan sa Aristocrat (Virtual Edition) Monday morning, General Sobejana said they are waiting for test kits to find out the real situation in the impoverished island provinces wracked by extremists and other lawless elements.

“While we can see a low number of COVID-19 cases in Western Mindanao, perhaps we can attribute this to the fact we lack test kits,” General Sobejana said. He added very few have undergone tests to check on their physical conditions.

The Western Mindanao Command chief said when residents would undergo tests and swabs could be processed either at RITM in Manila or in Davao City, there may be an increase in COVID-19 positive cases.

With the deaths of three Persons Under Investigation recently, they still have to find if the deaths were due to the novel coronavirus.

General Sobejana said there have been 500 Filipinos returned from Sabah after Malaysian authorities implemented their Movement Control Order last March 18 to prevent the spread of COVID-19. With the MCO enforced, undocumented Filipino workers; livelihood Sabah has been seriously affected.

“We have designated one island in Basilan to serve as quarantine for the returning Filipinos where they stayed for two weeks from a high of 500 to 121 to 40,” he said.

What worries the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the area is the required logistics for about 500 more Filipinos returning to the country from oil-rich Sabah. He said government agencies should also consider the plight of these inbound Filipinos.

He explained they are simply following the presidential directive not to refuse entry of returning Filipino nationals.

It will be recalled Mindanao Development Authority Chairman Emmanuel F. Piñol recently wrote Datuk Seri Panglima HJ. Mohd. Shafie Bin Haji Apdal, Sabah Chief Minister, to suspend the scheduled deportation of undocumented Filipinos in Sabah until the community quarantine is lifted including travel restrictions.

In a related development, General Sobejana said one of the more seriously injured soldiers during their encounter with the Abu Sayaff Group last Friday, passed away this morning in a hospital in Western Mindanao, bring the death toll to 12.

General Sobejana said the video that has been played in social media was taken about two years ago.

“The Egyptian national holding an M-16 rifle has already been neutralized last October last year. I don’t know why the Abu Sayaff disseminated the video after the bloody encounter,” General Sobejana said. (Melo M. Acuña)

AFP Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. General Cirilito E. Sobejana. (Screen grab from Tapatan sa Aristocrat (Virtual Edition) via ZOOM)

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