KUCHING: Philippines’ incoming president Rodrigo Duterte vowed to pursue the Philippines’s claim to Sabah, widely reported by the Fillipino press yesterday.
The Phillipines Star quoted Duterte saying, “I’ll stick to our claim,” when asked for his stand on the country’s claim to Sabah.
Pressed if he would recognize the claim of the sultanate of Sulu on Sabah, Duterte replied: “Yes. What has been the policy will always be the policy of the government especially those for the interest of the country. We have to stake our claim.”
The news portal reported the Sulu sultanate used to rule over parts of southern Philippines and Sabah. However, in 1963, the British government transferred Sabah to the Federation of Malaysia.
The Philippines claims that Sabah was only leased, not ceded, to the British North Borneo Co. and that heirs of the sultan of Sulu continue to receive lease payments for Sabah.
Malaysia, however, maintains that Sabah as part of its territory since the formation of the federation in 1963.
The dispute over Sabah made it to the headlines again in 2013 after followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram entered Lahad Datu in Sabah to assert their rights over the area.
A series of armed encounters ensued after Kiram’s followers refused to leave despite the warnings given by Malaysian government forces.
Dozens of Malaysian security personnel and sultanate followers died during the clashes.
President Aquino has clarified to Malaysia that the actions of Kiram’s followers were not sanctioned by the Philippine government.
The Manila Bulletin reported that in a press conference at Davao City yesterday, Duterte also claimed the Spartly Islands located in the West Philippine Sea which were claimed by China were also his.
China has been maintaining that the disputed areas fall within the “nine-dotted line” which it asserts as its territory. But the Philippines has challenged this claim in the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and said that China violated the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS, on exclusive economic zones and territorial seas.