Thursday, June 10, 2021

Over 200 Badjaos in Manila, sent back to Zambo

ZAMBOANGA CITY – At least 237 members of the indigenous tribe called Badjao arrived here after authorities rounded them up in various areas in Manila and sent them back home.

More than 200 Badjaos are processed in Zamboanga City following their return June 9, 2021 after being 'rescued' in Manila. (Handouts from the Zamboanga City Social Welfare and Development Office, Coast Guard)


The Regional Inter-Agency Council and the Zamboanga City Sea-Based Anti-Trafficking Task Force led by Fiscal Sharon Belisario facilitated the return of the Badjaos. They arrived Wednesday night on board a passenger vessel.


Because of the continuing exodus of Badjaos to Manila, Mayor Beng Climaco on Thursday said she has written Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Villar, who is in-charge of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, to intervene and to thoroughly investigate the mass departure of Badjaos to Manila, as well as provide long-term solutions to protect the interest of the indigenous peoples.


In her letter, Climaco said: “It is highly unusual for a very large group of Badjaos to be suddenly in an exodus from Zamboanga to Manila. The lives of these indigenous peoples are in our hands and we have to look for an immediate and lasting solution. Being an advocate and champion on the rights of every individual we both share the same aspiration to protect their best interest.”


The mayor said she also made a similar request to Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista, who is the Cabinet Officer Responsible for Development and Security in Zamboanga Peninsula or Region 9.


Climaco said she is concerned about the safety and welfare of the Badjaos and raised suspicions that they may be victims of exploitation and trafficking by unscrupulous individuals.


She said the Badjaos were immediately tested for Covid-19 and provided food and shelter and other services by the Department of Social Welfare and Development and its local counterpart led by Socorro Rojas as part of safety and health protocols.


Climaco said she learned that the Badjaos arrived in Manila on June 4, but there were also other groups who went to Manila on April 27 and May 30. It was unclear how they were able to travel by boat to Manila and ended up on the streets begging for alms or money.


The Badjaos, also called “sea gypsies” because they live in coastal areas and in boats, are scattered all over Zamboanga Peninsula and the Bangsamoro autonomous region. (Mindanao Examiner)

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