DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 16 January) — The municipality of Turtle Islands in Tawi-tawi has asked the government of Sabah in Malaysia for humanitarian consideration, to allow medical emergency cases to be sent to neighboring Sandakan, less than an hour’s ride away by boat.
“I have already spoken to some local authorities in Sabah particularly in Sandakan, seeking permission from them to allow life-threatening cases from my municipality to seek medical attention in Sandakan hospitals during emergency situations,” Sabah’s Daily Express newspaper quoted Turtle Islands mayor Mohammad Faizal Jamalul as saying.
“The closest medical assistance that we can get during emergency is Sandakan which is only less than an hour boat ride,” he said.
It takes 16 hours sea travel for a patient to get medical assistance in the capital town of Bongao, and nearly 30 hours to reach Zamboanga City.
Jamalul, according to the Daily Express report, said the response was encouraging. He said he will clarify with Malaysian authorities on the proper procedures.
He explained that if their request is approved, they would coordinate with Malaysian authorities. Medical and other hospitalization charges, he said, will be settled in accordance with rules and regulations in the host country.
Due to the proximity of the town with Sabah, residents of Turtle Islands get their household supplies from Sandakan.
Turtle Islands is one of 11 municipalities in Tawi-tawi province. It is a fifth class municipality with a population of 4,727 residents (as of 2015 census) spread across two barangays — Taganak Poblacion and Likud Bakkan.
Tawi-tawi is a member-province of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), a year-old political entity that replaced the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. BARMM is a product of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
The peace process between the Philippine government and the MILF was facilitated by Malaysia. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)