Duterte to pursue Sabah claim

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Incoming president Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday vowed to pursue the Philippines’s claim to Sabah, which is now being administered by Malaysia.

“I’ll stick to our claim,” Duterte said when asked for his stand on the country’s claim to Sabah.

Pressed if he would recognize the claim of the sultanate of Sulu, 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 Sulu sultanate used to rule over parts of southern Philippines and Sabah. 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. The heirs of the sultan of Sulu continue to receive lease payments for Sabah. 

Malaysia, however, maintains that the international community has been recognizing Sabah as part of its territory since the formation of the federation in 1963. 

The dispute over Sabah landed on 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, which spilled over to other parts of Sabah.

President Aquino has clarified to Malaysia that the actions of Kiram’s followers were not sanctioned by the Philippine government.

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