Sabah will always be part of the Philippines
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) - August 4, 2020 - 12:00am

Yesterday evening, I had a Zoom interview with Manila Mayor Isko Moreno. Thanks to COVID-19, we are forced to use technology so we can interview personalities without leaving our home base. Actually, last November 2018, my good friend, Manila Bulletin columnist Deedee Siytangco, asked me to support Isko Moreno who was running for Manila mayor. So we had dinner with Isko; that’s when I found him to be humble, frank and a person who grew up among the ranks of the poor people of Manila. He told me that he was in fact a pure Bisaya, since his father came from Antique and his mother was from Samar. This is Karay-ah and Waray combined. But like many Bisayas, he was born in Tondo, Manila and still lives there.

Now that Isko Moreno is Manila Mayor it was time for me to visit Manila, especially that in just a year in office, he has cleaned up the ugly and filthy streets of Manila that I was planning to visit this year, but COVID-19 prevented me from visiting.

Anyway that Zoom interview showed an Isko Moreno just as humble as he was when I first met him. Isko Moreno is now more popular than he could ever dream of. He is the only Mayor of Manila who can bring back the old glamor of Manila – just like the old days. Kudos to Mayor Isko Moreno!

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While we are all focused on the support of the international community that questions the claim of the People’s Republic of China or the Communist Party of China (CPP) in the South China Sea (SCS) which we now call the Western Philippine Sea (WPS), suddenly out of the blue, an old territorial dispute has been reawakened when Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. tweeted the US embassy that Sabah has always been considered part of Philippine territorial claims.

I’m glad that this very important issue to Filipinos – especially our Muslim community – has been brought back to the limelight. Just ask yourself how many countries can claim to have territory in Borneo? Right now it is three countries – Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia. Thirty years ago, I said that it was high time for the Philippines and Malaysia to finally resolve this question on sovereignty by asking the International Tribunal in The Hague to settle this case once and for all.

History tells us that Malaysia has considered Sabah its territory only since it became part of the Malaysian Federation in 1963. Kuala Lumpur maintains the United Nations and the international community have recognized Sabah as part of Malaysia. However, we in the Philippines have always insisted that Sabah was merely on lease to Malaysia by the Sultanate of Sulu, which has ceded sovereignty over the area to the Philippines.

The Sultanate signed a Jan. 22, 1878 lease agreement with the now defunct private firm British North Borneo Company over a part of Sabah, which Malaysia absorbed after the British colonizers left. In short, Malaysia has been paying what it considers cession money of RM5,300 a year to the heirs of the Sulu Sultanate until it stopped payments in 2013.

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The last time I was in Manila was in January 2019 during the official launching of the Manila Bay Rehabilitation program. This is due to the fact that I dared then Manila Yacht Club Commodore Robert “Bobby” Joseph to come up with a plan to make his being commodore an unforgettable thing. So he asked me to be in Manila to join him with practically all the Cabinet secretaries of the Duterte administration for the official launching of this very noble program.

So now, more than a year after the Manila Bay rehabilitation was launched, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) unveiled last Thursday, July 30th, a solar-powered sewage treatment plant (STP) adjacent to the Manila Yacht Club along Roxas Boulevard in Manila.

The solar-powered STP, which aims to address the problem with household wastewater discharge that contributes to the pollution in Manila Bay, is capable of treating 500,000 liters of waste water per day from three major drainage outfalls along Roxas Boulevard, according to DENR.

They installed a 1.5-kilometer-long rubber pipe from the US embassy to the Manila Yacht Club to divert untreated wastewater from outfalls in Padre Faura, Rajah Soliman/Remedios across Aristocrat Restaurant and Manila Yacht Club. This newly inaugurated STP will then process and treat the domestic waste water before it will be discharged to Manila Bay.

It was great to see via Facebook DENR chief Roy Cimatu and Metro Manila Development Authority chair Danilo Lim and Commodore Bobby Joseph at the ribbon-cutting as part of the three-phased rehabilitation program dubbed “Battle for Manila Bay.” Like what I’ve always said, the cleaning up of Manila Bay is at least a 10-year process!

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