Manila not giving up claim on Sabah

President Benigno Aquino says both countries should go back to the negotiation table on the Sabah issue.

(FMT) – MANILA: In a clear indication that Manila has not given up its claim to Sabah, President Benigno Aquiino said Philippines is open to negotiating with Malaysia.

He said the two countries should embark on a rules-based approach to resolve the Sabah claim similar to the case filed by Manila against Beijing to address the territorial dispute over the Spratley Islands.

Speaking before the graduating class of the Philippine Military Academy, Aquino said regardless of whether the claims of the followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III were legitimate, an armed incursion into Sabah was not the way to resolve the dispute.

“Let us look at the situation in the West Philippine Sea as an example. Is it not true that, like in the issue of Sabah, we continue to hold firm to principles founded on a rules-based approach, towards a peaceful resolution of the dispute over the islands.

“If we were to resort to saber-rattling and violence, the problem would only grow bigger, and in all likelihood, would only carry over to the next generations,” the president said.

“We all know that for every action, there is a resultant reaction, and that there are problems that cannot be solved hastily—problems that will only beget more problems if we try to solve them through force or recklessness.

“What is needed here is a careful and truthful evaluation of the facts, and a subsequent negotiation along those lines, to produce the right solution,” he added.

According to the Philippine Standard, the president acknowledged that while he will not give up the country’s claim on Sabah, neither will Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

“We already know how complicated this issue is: could any Malaysian Prime Minister so easily agree to let go of a land that, for so long, has been subject to their laws? Is there a Philippine President who would, without a second thought, give up our claim?”

Aquino even cited the Bangsamoro framework agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as example of how “earnest dialogue is more effective, more productive, and more beneficial to all.”

“Forbearance and reason are not equivalent to cowardice—on the contrary, these are the measures of true courage and resolve, because through these we are able to consider the well-being of not only those living in the here and now, but especially those in the years to come,” the president said.

Unnamed masterminds

Aquino repeated allegations that there were collaborators and financiers who helped the Kirams send a 235-member contingent to Sabah.

Without citing specifics or offering evidence, the president said the collaborators “gathered the funds needed to rent boats, to buy gasoline and food, guns and bullets” for the group led by the sultan’s brother, Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram.

Aquino accused the still unnamed “masterminds” and collaborators of selfishly goading the Kirams into going to Sabah.

The sultanate of Sulu said Sunday they would ask the US government to arbitrate with the Malaysians to help resolve the Sabah issue.

“We are asking President Barack Obama to mediate in the peaceful resolution of our claim in Sabah with Malaysia,” Sultanate of Sulu Spokesman Abraham Idjirani said.