THE Sultanate of Sulu has criticized the Philippine government for reportedly offering to downgrade its claim over Sabah (North Borneo) in exchange for Malaysia’s support for its legal battle against China over the disputed islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) before the United Nations (UN).
Abraham Idjirani, spokesman for the Sultanate of Sulu, told The Manila Times that the Philippine government cannot treat the Sabah claim as “bargaining chip” with Malaysia to gain support to resolve its territorial conflict with China.
“There is the United Nations which the Philippine government had taken already a step,” Idjirani said in an interview over the weekend.
According to Idjirani, both countries [the Philippines and Malaysia]cannot extinguish the proprietary ownership and authority of the Sultanate of Sulu legally recognized by Malaysia by continuing to pay the annual rental payment to the Sultan of Sulu and his heirs.
Vera Files, in an article published on March 30, claimed that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), through the note verbale, has offered to downgrade its claim to Sabah in exchange for Malaysia’s support for its case against China before the United Nations.
The DFA, however, denied the report, saying what the note included were only clarifications on Malaysia’s maritime claims to the disputed territories in the South China Sea.
According to Idjirani, the note verbale are acts of serious betrayal to the Muslims in the Sulu archipelago and the nation.
“Corollarily, Malacañang and the Department of Foreign Affairs must be the first to show the people that it observe the “rule of law” since the Sultanate of Sulu already withdrew in 1989 and the 1962 Special Authority given to the Philippine government,” he said.
The Sultanate of Sulu also asked the Aquino government to explain to the Filipino people the motives aside from making the Sabah claim a “sacrificial lamb” in order to get the concurrence of Malaysia to support the country’s territorial conflict with China.
Meanwhile, the Sultanate of Sulu also said that it will reject the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which aims to create a new autonomous region in Mindanao, because it believes that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) would drop the sultanate’s Sabah claim in exchange for Malaysia’s support for the creation of a Bangsamoro government.
“The MILF would find legal means how to formally drop the Sabah claim because ancestrally [Sabah is not its property]. [Sabah] is the property of the people of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga Peninsula, and Palawan. [The MILF] will drop [the]Sabah [claim]because [its leaders]are not interested in it, and they owe Malaysia a debt of gratitude,” Idjirani said in an earlier interview.
Malaysia also acts as an international mediator between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the MILF for the creation of a Bangsamoro government that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Last year, Sultan Esmail Kiram 2nd renewed his family’s call on the government to pursue the claim to Sabah, now part of Malaysia.
The Sultanate of Sulu is urging the Aquino administration to support its claim to North Borneo (Sabah) as the government’s historic and moral obligations.
In 2013, then-Sultan Jamalul Kiram 3rd sent some 200 of his armed followers to Lahad Datu, Sabah, to assert their claim over the island, resulting in the deaths of more than 50 people and imprisonment of several others by Malaysian authorities.
The Sultanate of Sulu has been claiming that, based on historical facts, Sabah belongs to it and it was only leased to Malaysia’s British North Borneo Company in 1878.