Sabah issue not a matter of sovereignty for now–govt

MALACAÑANG distanced itself from the $14.9-billion claims of the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu from the Malaysian government regarding Sabah by saying it is not an issue of national sovereignty for now.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Press Secretary Beatrix “Trixie” Cruz-Angeles described the case as a private matter between the heirs and Malaysia.

“Therefore, it is not an issue of sovereignty or of territory at the moment,” Angeles said.

The Palace official said she will seek policy direction from President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. on how the government will subsequently treat the Sabah issue under his administration.

“The President’s articulation of his [State of the Nation Address] statement about not giving up a square inch of territory will have to be reduced into writing and into specifics. After which, we will announce this to you if they are in any way related to the Sabah claim. At the moment, there is no articulation. So we will have to wait,” Angeles said.

Marcos’s allusion in his State of the Nation Address to not give up even a “square inch” of territory had been widely viewed as in the context of the Philippines’s continuing determination to resist Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea.

During the Duterte administration, the government said it will continue to pursue the country’s historic claim over Sabah.

Angeles remarked on Sabah after a French arbitration court ordered Malaysia last month to pay compensation to the heirs of Sulu.

The issue stems from the agreement made by the Sultan of Sulu with a British trading company in 1878 for the exploitation of resources in Sabah in Borneo, which is currently under Malaysian control.

Malaysia took over the regular payment to the heirs of Sabah after its independence from British rule. But in 2013, it decided to stop the payments altogether.

The Malaysian government offered to resume the payments in 2019, but it was rejected by the heirs, who wanted to renegotiate the deal after fuel and oil resources were discovered in Sabah.

The heirs initially sought arbitration in Spain, but it was later transferred to French courts instead.