The Philippines has not abandoned its claim on Sabah despite the Aquino administration’s seeming lack of interest on the matter, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said on Friday.
Countering criticsms that President Benigno Aquino 3rd has shunned calls for the Philippines to reclaim the territory which is home to thousands of Filipino Muslims, Valte said the study on the claim is still ongoing.
“I did speak with my counterpart earlier this morning in DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] and he did say that yes, the study is still ongoing and we will proceed to act as soon as all facts are in and the study is finished,” Valte told reporters.
The President is on a two-day state visit to Malaysia but the Sabah question has not been tabled for discussion.
“I’m not quite sure if Sabah was spoken about. Perhaps, we should expect to hear from Malaysia later, at least from our delegation who is there when the President speaks to the Philippine media delegation later,” Valte said.
Relations between the Philippines and Malaysia were strained when hundreds of followers of the late Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram 3rd last year invaded Sabah in a bid to reclaim it.
Aquino ordered a comprehensive study on the “legal, the historical, as well as all related avenues” to the Sabah claim. He has assigned particular aspects of the study to particular agencies such as the Justice department and the DFA.
“Moving forward, we would have to wait for the results of the study,” Valte said.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima had firmed up a government position on the Philippine claim to Sabah and submitted it to the President last year.
Aquino ordered De Lima, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office to study the legal and historical aspects of the Sabah claim following the incursion in Sabah of Kiram’s followers.
JOEL M. SY EGCO