DFA: Philippines maintains claim on Sabah


MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday denied reports that the Philippines offered Sabah to Malaysia for its support on the case against China before an arbitral tribunal.

READ: Philippines offers Sabah to win Malaysia’s support for UN case vs China

During a press conference aired on television, DFA Spokesperson Charles Jose clarified that the note verbale from the Philippines to Malaysia was part of the two countries' "friendly bilateral relations" and that Sabah was not included in the issue.

"There's no way that we are dropping our claim on Sabah," Jose said.

A report from the VERA files stated that the DFA informed the Malaysian government that it is reviewing its protest and action against Malaysia's extended continental shelf claim.

Jose noted that the Philippines registered its objection to Malaysia and Vietnam's claim in 2009 to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

"We have this arbitration case with the UN and the essence of our case is to clarify maritime entitlements and it would be helpful to our case if the maritime entitlements of other claimant countries could be clarified," the DFA spokesperson said.

The Philippines claims ownership of Sabah based on the title of the Sultan of Sulu who claimed rights over the land in 1962, according to the report. Malaysia currently occupies Sabah.

"Sabah is not in any way part of the note," Jose stressed, adding that the note verbale was about the features i the South China sea and its implications in the extended continental shelf claims.

The Philippines recently filed an arbitration case against China's nine-dash line claim.

RELATED: Philippines says China rushing construction in disputed sea | Phl hits back at China over sea infra work

The reported plan of the Philippine government to downgrade the Philippines’s claim on Sabah in exchange Malaysia’s support for its case against China before the United Nations is a “betrayal of the people’s trust,” the spokesman for the Sultanate of Sulu said Monday.

The claim by the Philippines over Sabah - which is at present occupied by Malaysia- is based on the title of the Sultan of Sulu who ceded proprietary rights over the 76,115-square-kilometer land to the Philippines in 1962.

However, Sultanate of Sulu spokesman Abraham Idjirani clarified that the Sultanate has regained the propriety rights over Sabah as stated in a resolution passed by the Sultanate’s council of advisers during the time of then Sultan Esmail Kiram I and the late President Diosdado Macapagal.

The resolution signed in 1962 states that the Philippine government will represent the sultanate in the Sabah dispute. The resolution, however, also stated that should the government fail to act on the claim on a given period, its authority will be revoked and the Sulu sultanate may retain its sovereign rights to prosecute its claim on Sabah.

“We have already revoked that authority. So in the legal process, the Philippine government no longer has the authority through the Department of Foreign Affairs to talk to Malaysia on the issue of Sabah. That action would mean a betrayal of the people’s trust on the government,” said Idjirani.

Idjirani meanwhile said the Sultanate of Sulu would ask assistance from the United States to help broker its claim over Sabah. Idjirani said the Sultanate of Sulu would be invoking the 1915 Kiram-Carpenter Agreement for this purpose.

The agreement, signed on March 22, 1915 between the Sultanate of Sulu under Sultan Hadji Jamalul Kiram and Frank W. Carpenter, governor of the then Department of Mindanao and Sulu of the colonial government in the Philippine islands.

According to the agreement, the United States government then assured the sultan of Sulu of its full protection should a problem arises in Sabah between the sultan of Sulu and other foreign countries.

Idjirani  also said the Sultanate of Sulu would also be holding consultations in Palawan, Basilan, Zamboanga and Tawi Tawi as these areas are also affected by the Sabah dispute.

“The Sabah dispute is not just about the Sultanate of Sulu. It is about national patrimony. We call on all Filipinos to support the Sabah claim,” said Idjirani.

According to a report by VERA Files, the quid pro quo was contained in a note verbale the DFA handed to a representative of the Malaysian embassy last week, a week after the visit of Malaysian Defense Minister Dato  Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein.

The note verbale, referred to the May 6, 2009 joint submission by Malaysia and Vietnam to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) in which Malaysia claimed an extended continental shelf (350 nautical miles from baseline) that was clearly projected from Sabah.

The Philippines, in an Aug. 4, 2009 note to the UN Secretary General, protested the joint submission because it effectively declared Sabah to be a Malaysian territory.

In last week’s note verbale, however, the DFA informed the Malaysian government that it is “reviewing” its 2009 protest and its action would depend on Malaysia’s response to Manila’s two requests related to the South China Sea conflicting territorial claims.

The first request is for Malaysia to “confirm” that its claim of an extended continental shelf is “entirely from the mainland coast of Malaysia, and not from any of the maritime features in the Spratly islands.”

The DFA also requested Malaysia to confirm that it “does not claim entitlement to maritime areas beyond 12 nautical miles from any of the maritime features in the Spratly islands it claims.”

Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a state is entitled to 12-nautical-mile territorial sea over which it exercises sovereignty.

Malaysia, like the Philippines, claims parts of the Spratly islands in the South China Sea which is being claimed almost wholly by China, Vietnam and Taiwan. Brunei is another claimant to some parts of the Spratlys.

There are some parts in the Spratlys where the 200-NM Exclusive Economic  Zones of the Philippines and Malaysia overlap.

Sabah (North Borneo) originally belonged to the Sultan of Brunei, who gave it to Sultan of Sulu Salah ud-Din Karamat Bakhtiar in 1658 as a reward for helping quell a rebellion. In 1878, Sulu Sultan Jamalul Alam Kiram leased North Borneo to the Hong Kong-based British North Borneo Co. of Baron Gustavos von Overbeck and Alfred Dent for 5,000 Malaysian dollars a year.

In 1946, Overbeck and Dent, without permission from the Sulu Sultan, transferred the territory to the British government when the company ceased operations.

On Sept. 11, 1962, Sultan of Sulu Mohammad Esmail Kiram ceded to the Philippine government full sovereignty, title and dominion over the territory. President Diosdado Macapagal filed the Philippines’s claim over Sabah with the United Nations.

In 1963, the British government, again without permission from the Sultan of Sulu, transferred Sabah to the newly formed Federation of Malaysia.

Malaysia is currently the broker in the peace talks between the Philippine government and the Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for the creation of a  Bangsamoro, an autonomous political entity in the southern part of the Philippines.












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