DFA denies dropping Phl claim on Sabah

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines has never offered to drop its Sabah claim in exchange for Malaysia’s support for Manila’s arbitration case against China over the West Philippine Sea issue, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday.

“In the context of our friendly bilateral relations, our two countries have been for years exchanging ways on how to address the issue of the extended continental shelf (ECS) in the South China Sea,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said in explaining the DFA’s sending of a note verbale to Malaysia last week.

“The note verbale that was written about was part of this process. The note is about the features in the South China Sea and their implications on ECS claims. Sabah is not in any way part of the Note,” he said in a text message to The STAR Sunday night.

“There are some parts of the submission that could be discussed without affecting in any way our claim to Sabah because we have this arbitration case with the UN and the essence of our case is to clarify maritime entitlements,” he said in a press conference yesterday.

“It would be helpful to our case if the maritime entitlements of other claimant countries could be clarified,” he added.

The Malaysian embassy has not issued a statement on the note verbale from the DFA.

China has been reclaiming lands in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, apparently in a bid to alter features in the disputed waters in anticipation of Manila’s getting a favorable ruling on its case before the international arbitral tribunal based in The Hague.

The Philippine position recently received a boost from Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who declared that China’s claims to almost the entire South China Sea had no legal basis. He said China is the only country that believes in the validity of its nine-dash line claim.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said Widodo’s statement shows “there is no country in the world except for China that believes its nine-dash line is a valid claim.”

The statement, Del Rosario added, also indicates that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is “beginning to recognize there should be more focus on what is happening on the ground as far as the South China Sea issue is concerned.”

The Philippines initiated arbitral proceedings under Article 287 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in January 2013.

In March last year, the Philippines submitted its Memorial or written argument to the Arbitral Tribunal. China conveyed to the tribunal its refusal to take part in proceedings but released a position paper claiming that the court had no jurisdiction over the issue.


Abandoning the country’s Sabah claim to get Malaysia’s support for Manila’s arbitral case against China before the United Nations is a “betrayal of the people’s trust,” the Sultanate of Sulu said.

“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,” Sultanate of Sulu spokesman Abraham Idjirani said.

He said the sultanate regained proprietary rights over the 76,115-square kilometer Sabah from the Philippine government after the latter failed to act on the Sabah issue within a given period.

In a 1962 resolution passed by its council of advisers, the Sulu Sultanate ceded its rights over Sabah on condition that Manila would vigorously pursue the Sabah claim.

“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,” said Idjirani.

He also said the sultanate would ask assistance from the United States in pursuing its claim over Sabah.

Idjirani said the Sultanate of Sulu would be invoking the 1915 Kiram-Carpenter Agreement for this purpose.

The agreement was signed on March 22, 1915 by Sultan Hadji Jamalul Kiram and Frank Carpenter, governor of the then Department of Mindanao and Sulu of the US colonial government in the Philippines.


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