LAHAD DATU: A Philippine ship is on standby off Tawi Tawi island to rescue women and civilians if the stand-off at Tanduo village deteriorates.
The Department of Foreign Affairs, through the Philippine Embassy, said in a statement yesterday that the ship was on a humanitarian mission.
It sailed from Bongao (in Tawi Tawi) and was positioned off Lahad Datu last night while talks with the group were ongoing.
It said that there were about 180 individuals in the Sulu group, including 30 armed escorts.
Notification of the ship's intended departure was conveyed by the Department of Foreign Affairs on Saturday to the Malaysian Embassy in Manila, it added.
“Onboard the ship are Filipino-Muslim leaders as well as social workers and medical personnel.
“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,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario said.
He said Manila had on many occasions called on the entire group to return home to their families for their own safety while the core issues raised were addressed.