Binay to pursue territorial claim to Sabah if elected
Ghio Ong, Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) - February 26, 2016 - 9:00am

LUCENA CITY, Quezon, Philippines – Vice President Jejomar Binay vowed to pursue the country’s territorial claim over Sabah if he is elected president.

The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) standard bearer said his administration would revive the country’s long-standing claim over Sabah, which the current administration failed to pursue.

“We will pursue our claim to Sabah,” Binay told Manila-based reporters in an interview during UNA’s sortie here.

“Why would we give up something that rightfully belongs to us?” he said.

UNA vice presidential bet Sen. Gregorio Honasan II supported Binay on the issue.

“We will reclaim it. It’s ours. We should not give up our claim, national interest comes first,” Honasan said.

In February 2013, the Sultanate of Sulu tried to reclaim Sabah, sending 200 armed supporters to the island led by the late Sultan Jamalul Kiram III’s brother, Agbimuddin Kiram.

Malaysian troops, however, killed 64 followers of Kiram and crushed the Sultanate’s Royal Army.

The pursuit of the Sabah claim is also the centerpiece of the platform of Princess Jacel Kiram, eldest daughter of the late sultan and one of the senatorial candidates of UNA.

“Aside from pushing for the unity of Christians and Muslims, I am carrying the issue of our territory, Sabah,” Kiram said.

“With its vast natural resources including oil, this property is earning $72 billion annually, more than enough to boost the country’s economy,” she said.

Kiram said Sabah’s income alone would be enough to feed the whole nation as it could easily provide each of the 100 million Filipinos a sack of rice every month.

“If we could successfully reclaim Sabah, then no Filipino would ever go hungry again,” she said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said the Philippines is not abandoning Sabah amid reports that the DFA is downgrading its claims in exchange for Malaysia’s support to the country’s arbitration case against China in the South China Sea.

DFA spokesman Charles Jose clarified it indeed sent Malaysia a note verbale but it was about the features in the SCS and their implications on the extended continental shelf claims and Sabah is not in any way part of the note.

Meanwhile, Binay accused the Liberal Party of using the government’s conditional cash transfer Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program (4Ps) to buy votes in the coming elections.

“It’s already happening. The one involved is a Cabinet secretary,” Binay told reporters covering his sortie here. He did not elaborate.

Binay, in a speech in Candelaria town last Thursday, said there were reports that the administration party is recruiting more “watchers” for the May 9 polls, promising them money which would be sourced from the 4Ps.

“We have received reports that there were people who went to Laguna and told residents there to get watchers and they will pay them using 4Ps funds,” he said.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Binay had criticized the conditional cash transfer but he is using the 4Ps in his political advertisements.

Lacierda said that the administration had expanded the 4Ps coverage from 800,000 families to 4.4 million families.

“It has been a successful program hailed here and abroad. Do the beneficiaries want to continue Daang Matuwid? You bet. Do they trust Binay to continue 4Ps? That’s a big question considering that there is an issue on his tendency to touch the cookie jar,” he added.

UNA has also expressed concerns over the strong public perception of cheating.

“UNA has received raw reports that some quarters associated with the administration party will cause the printing of extra ballots other than what is required by the Comelec,” Rico Quicho, campaign spokesman for Binay, said in a previous statement. – With Alexis Romero

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