Manila to revive office in charge of claiming Sabah, alleges ‘bribes’ to drop past attempts

Philippine’s Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr (right) will revive the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) North Borneo Affairs which is dedicated to efforts to reclaim Sabah, which he described as ‘the tropical island of Borneo.’ — Reuters pic
Philippine’s Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr (right) will revive the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) North Borneo Affairs which is dedicated to efforts to reclaim Sabah, which he described as ‘the tropical island of Borneo.’ — Reuters pic

KOTA KINABALU, Sept 1 ― The Philippines is reportedly planning to revive its claim on Sabah, after saying that its previous department in charge of the claim had been receiving significant “bribes” over the years to drop the matter.

The Inquirer reported that Philippine’s Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr will revive the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) North Borneo Affairs which is dedicated to efforts to reclaim Sabah, which he described as “the tropical island of Borneo.”

“As a matter of history there have been repeated offers to abandon our Sabah claim from aspiring presidential candidates since the late 1970s, usually Opposition because they are most in need of campaign funds but administration as well,” Locsin tweeted on Sunday.

On Monday, Locsin again tweeted “the Filipino public must know that what is on offer is huge so the temptation to betray is commensurately humongous.”

“Leaving it to diplomats is not enough to safeguard the national interest in the matter. There’s the additional temptation to feel welcome in the host country,” he said.

Locsin recalled “an old bureau within the DFA exclusively devoted to the issue,” and said he will resurrect or revitalise it.

The Philippines has had a long-standing claim on Sabah, which officially became a part of Malaysia since its formation in 1963, based on the historical ownership of the Sultan of Sulu over what used to be North Borneo.

Locsin had last Thursday said that while it did not want to sour diplomatic relations with its neighbour, it would not give up on its claim.

“While we have always endeavored not to let it affect our relations with Malaysia, well, it’s up to them. But we will certainly never give it up,” Locsin had said.

“As the successor in sovereignty of the Sultanate of Sulu, the Philippines has legal ownership and sovereignty over Northern Borneo, or what I call the tropical island of Borneo,” he said.

Last week, the Philippines’ House Committee on Foreign Affairs approved a substitute bill requiring the printing of the country’s map, including its 200-mile exclusive economic zone and Sabah, on Philippine passports.

Cagayan de Oro representative Rufus B. Rodriguez reportedly said the move was aimed at emphasising the Philippines’ victory in the West Philippine Sea issue over China in the International Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, and its legal and historical rights over Sabah.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had said that Malaysia would never recognise or entertain such claims, and said it would fight to defend Sabah’s sovereignty in Malaysia.

This comes as last week, the Philippines’ House Committee on Foreign Affairs approved a substitute Bill requiring the printing of the country’s map, including its 200-mile exclusive economic zone and Sabah, on Philippine passports.

Cagayan de Oro representative Rufus B. Rodriguez reportedly said the move was aimed at emphasising the Philippines’ victory in the West Philippine Sea issue over China in the International Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, and its legal and historical rights over Sabah.

Subsequently, Malaysia lodged a note verbale with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to reject the Philippines’ continued claim on Sabah.

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