KOTA KINABALU: Malaysian security personnel are on full alert for Filipinos from southern Philippines fleeing the war-torn region trying to enter Sabah illegally.
This comes after intellingence reports of scores of people at strategic Philippines island close to Sandakan.
And over the past three days Marine police arrested 37 people in seperate operations at waters off the Sandakan district
Sandakan Marine Police chief Asst Supt Mazre Che Mahmod said eight Filipino nationals were detained when they intercepted a boat in waters off Nunuyan in Sandakan at about 12.30am on Sept 20.
Barely 12 hours later, Marine Police personnel intercepted another boat near a swamp also at Nunuyan with 20 Filipino nationals on board.
He said Marine Police intercepted another boat at Pamaguan on at about 12.30pm Sept 22 transporting nine Filipino nationals.
Mazre said they were on heightened alert for people from southern Philippines trying to slip into Sabah following the Philippines military offensive in Jolo island.
” There is a possibility that those in the affected areas may try to get to Sabah in the wake of the military operations against the Abu Sayyaf as well as drug dealers in southern Philippines, ” he added.
The arrests came just days after police detained a 33-year-old Filipino national after they seized 30 live M16 bullets, a 65 cm long sword, walkie talkies, handphones and fatigues from his house at Kampung Mangkalinau in Sandakan.
Also detained was the man’s 13-year-old daughter.
Sabah Police Criminal Investigation Department chief Senior Asst Comm Salehhudin Abdul Rahman said they were probing if the man had any links with militant groups in southern Philippines.
In a related development, Mazre said Marine Police personnel also recovered 629 packets of cooking oil hidden under some rubber mats at Tanjung Lihak Lihak, Tabangki on Sept 20.
He said the cooking oil worth RM1,572 were about to be smuggled to the southern Philippines when they stumbled upon the cache hidden on a beach area there.