300 Indonesian residents of Balut Is. get passports

AFTER five decades, 57-year-old Mardi Sarageti, who is currently residing in Balut Island, Davao Occidental, finally obtained a passport issued by the Indonesian government. It may be a regular a document to some people, but to him, it’s about reaffirming his roots.

 “Now that I have this, I can proudly exclaim that I am an Indonesian citizen,” Sarageti, head of Indonesian Christian Congregation UCCP Pakeluaso, said in Visayan language. He said the passport would prove that even if he was born in the Philippines, he is an Indonesian citizen.

 He said he has been in Balut Island since he was born as his grandparents chose to live there beginning in the 1950s. Traveling to Indonesia from the island via a pump boat will take just seven hours.

 Sarageti was among those who obtained passports yesterday at the House of Indonesia in Juna Subdivision with the presence of Retno Marsudi, minister for foreign affairs of the Republic of Indonesia.

 The Consulate General of Indonesia in Davao processed 300 passports for the first phase of the program.

 Marsudi said they will continue to process more passports in the near future. At present, there are 2,425 Indonesians who are currently in Mindanao especially in areas like Balut Island and Glan in Sarangani.

 Their identities were confirmed after the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Indonesian government in coordination with the Philippine government conducted registration in 2014 to 2016.

 “This (the passport) is a very basic right of any people to get their status of nationality,” Marsudi said.

 Marsudi admitted that it was difficult to trace those who are true citizens as most lack proper documents. “We also do this to Malaysia. But unlike in Malaysia, it is difficult here because they have been here for decades now,” she said.

 As of November last year, Meriam Faith Palma, field associate for protection and officer-in-charge of the statelessness project of UNHCR, said they registered 8,745 persons of Indonesian descent.

 Palma said they started to conduct mapping in 2010, which was in compliance with the bilateral relations between Indonesia and Philippines. She said she is happy that the citizens have finally obtained the passports.

 “With the passports, it would allow them to have freedom of movement,” Palma said.

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