The Inbox

No talk of Sabah in Aquino-Najib meet Feb. 27

President Aquino welcomes Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in Malacanang, Oct. 15, 2012 to witness signing …

By Tessa Jamandre, VERA Files

President Benigno Aquino III and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak are set to meet in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 27, when Aquino visits Malaysia in his first foreign trip for 2014, a highly reliable foreign affairs source said.

Missing from the agenda, however, will be the setting up of a consulate in Sabah, a matter which Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman had asked his Philippine counterparts to include.

Anifah conveyed the request personally to Foreign Secretary Alberto del Rosario when he came to Manila on January 31 on a day trip that was kept from the media.

The source said Anifah reiterated to Del Rosario Malaysia’s proposal “for a PH consulate in Kota Kinabalu and not in Sarawak” to take care of the consular needs of some 1.4 million mostly undocumented Filipinos in Sabah. Kota Kinabalu is the capital of Sabah.

The Philippine government, on the other hand, has a standing request for the establishment of a consulate in Sarawak, 513 kilometers from Kota Kinabalu. In the current set up, the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur serves Filipinos in Sabah.

The matter, however, was apparently dropped from the list of issues to be taken up by Aquino and Najib. “The Sabah issue will not be discussed during the visit,” the source told VERA Files.

Having a consulate in Sabah is tantamount to the Philippines dropping its claim on the territory, legal experts say, an act that is unconstitutional and, if coming from the president, impeachable.

Aquino’s meeting with Najib comes a month after the conclusion of the Malaysia-brokered negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Group (MILF) on the setting up of a Bangsamoro in Mindanao.

Najib is scheduled to reciprocate Aquino’s visit to Kuala Lumpur with a visit to Manila in March to witness the signing of the GPH-MILF comprehensive peace agreement, the source said.

With the peace talks between the Philippine government and the MILF wrapped up, the remaining bilateral issues of mutual concern to the Philippines and Malaysia are the territorial disputes over Sabah as well as the Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippines and Malaysia have overlapping claims to the Spratly Islands, which are also being claimed by China on the basis of its so-called 9-dash line claim over territories in the West Philippine Sea. The Philippines has taken China to arbitration court over the matter.

The Philippine claim against China gets a boost if Malaysia and Vietnam interplead in the international tribunal, but both countries are mum on the issue of arbitration against China.

The Sabah issue has been a thorn on the side of Philippine-Malaysia ties. On Jan. 21, Malaysia began another crackdown on illegal migrants in Sabah, with Filipinos among the hundreds reportedly rounded up.

Just before the crackdown, Malaysia also began the trial of 27 Filipinos who took part in the siege on the seaside village of Tandao in Lahad Datu in Sabah on Feb. 12, 2013.

That siege was led by the late Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III in an attempt to reclaim what once belonged to the Sultanate of Sulu. Hundreds of Filipinos were also deported when Malaysian authorities swooped down on illegal migrants after the failed siege.

Over the years, Malaysia has intensified its campaign against illegal migrants. More than half a million Filipinos reside in Malaysia, most of them undocumented and living in Sabah, the second largest state in the Federation of Malaysia.

The Philippines has shelved the issue of Sabah for peaceful co-existence with Malaysia and while it has considered setting up a consulate there in the past, the move never inched forward.

Sabah (North Borneo) is a vast territory in the northern portion of the island of Borneo which is titled to the Sultan of Sulu but has been occupied by Malaysia since its formation as a state in 1963.

Sabah originally belonged to the Sultan of Brunei, who then gave it to Sultan of Sulu Salah ud-Din Karamat Bakhtiar in 1658 as a reward for helping quell a rebellion.

In 1878, Sulu Sultan Jamalul Alam Kiram leased North Borneo to the Hong Kong-based British North Borneo Company of Baron Gustavos von Overbeck and Alfred Dent for 5,000 Malaysian dollars a year.

In 1946, Overbeck and Dent, without permission from the Sultan, transferred the territory to the British government when the company ceased operations. In 1963, the British government, again without permission from the Sultan of Sulu, transferred Sabah to the newly formed Federation of Malaysia.

Earlier, on Sept. 11, 1962, Sultan of Sulu Mohammad Esmail Kiram ceded to the Philippine government full sovereignty, title and dominion over the territory. The Philippine government had asserted title over the mineral-rich territory which is just 20 kilometers away from Tawi-Tawi, an island province at the southwestern tip of the Philippines.

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for “true.”)


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Bob Arum expects Pacquiao to retire in 2016
    Bob Arum expects Pacquiao to retire in 2016

    Manny Pacquiao's promoter Bob Arum says the Filipino boxer is ready to hang up his gloves after one more fight in 2016 and then make the switch to being a full-time politician. Arum told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday night that the 36-year-old Pacquiao wants to get on with his political career and run for the Senate in the Philippines. "I believe he'll take one more fight, then run for the Senate in the Philippines," Arum told the newspaper in a telephone interview from China. …

  • CBCP chief: Abortion a grave wrong
    CBCP chief: Abortion a grave wrong

    The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) yesterday stressed that abortion remains a grave and serious wrong. Villegas issued the statement as news that Pope Francis would allow priests to absolve those who confess the sin of abortion recently went viral. Some news items even said the pope has shown “more understanding” of abortion. …

  • PNP urged to fill over 23,000 vacancies to help manage traffic
    PNP urged to fill over 23,000 vacancies to help manage traffic

    Filling the 23,820 vacancies in the Philippine National Police will beef up security in the country as well as help in traffic management in Metro Manila, Sen. Francis Escudero said yesterday. He also called on the PNP to be more aggressive in recruiting new police officers. The same troop ceiling and fill-up ratio is expected next year based on Staffing Summary for 2016, one of the budget documents Malacañang sends to Congress every year, Escudero said. …

  • US urged to take firmer stand on China
    US urged to take firmer stand on China

    Philippine and US-based Filipino groups are calling on the US government to take a firmer stand against China’s continuous bullying in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea meant to bolster its encompassing maritime and territorial claims. The group MARCHA (Movement and Alliances to Resist China’s Aggression) and the US-Pilipino for Good Governance (US4PPG) are organizing a select group of Filipinos to travel to the US to engage and update key personalities in Capitol Hill as well as …

  • No bidding held for PCG’s P6-M cell phone cards – COA
    No bidding held for PCG’s P6-M cell phone cards – COA

    The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spent over P6.069 million in public funds to purchase pre-paid cellular phone load cards last year without any public bidding, state auditors said in a 2014 report released yesterday. They said this was done through the splitting of transactions in order to avoid the required bidding process. The Commission on Audit (COA) said the same kind of spending was used to buy scuba tank compressors amounting to P1.499 million last year. …

  • USAID director reaffirms strong partnership with Phl
    USAID director reaffirms strong partnership with Phl

    The  incoming mission director of the United States Agency for International Development for the Philippines has reaffirmed the strong development partnership between the Philippine government and USAID, the Philippine embassy in Washington said yesterday. She previously served as mission director in Zambia (2011-2015), deputy assistant  administrator in the Bureau for Global Health  (2009-2011), and mission director for Angola (2007-2009). …

  • Phl vows support for UN development agenda
    Phl vows support for UN development agenda

    The Philippines has affirmed Congress’ full support for the global post-2015 development agenda to be adopted by world leaders later this month at the United Nations on the eve of its 70th founding anniversary. The post-2015 development agenda consists of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their 169 targets covering the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. It will succeed the Millennium Development Goals which culminate this year. …

  • Phl, Brunei to enhance defense ties
    Phl, Brunei to enhance defense ties

    The armies of the Philippines and Brunei are eyeing joint exercises and training to strengthen cooperation and improve interoperability. The proposal was discussed during the meeting of Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año and Royal Brunei Land Forces (RBLF) commander Brig. Gen. Pengiran Dato Paduka Aminan in Fort Bonifacio yesterday. Año said a bilateral working group can be formed to facilitate the conduct of visits, training exchanges, joint military exercises and other similar …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options