MANILA - Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario confirmed Thursday there are ongoing negotiations with the family of Sultan Jamalul Kiram to end an ongoing standoff in Sabah, Malaysia.
""We cannot mention the developments taking place because I don't want to prejudice the negotiations. There are negotiations with the family and hpefully that goes well and there is a peacefull withdrawal," he said.
Del Rosario said the Malaysian government is not keen on using force to remove followers of Crown Prince Rajah Mudah Agbimuddin Kiram who are staying in Lahad Datu in Sabah.
He said the standoff will not affect bilateral relations with Malaysia. The Department of Foreign Affairs said there are 180 people in sabah including women while the sultanate of Sulu said there are 400 followers in Sabah.
Dozens of followers of an Islamic sultan from the southern Philippines sailed over to neighboring Sabah on the Malaysian part of Borneo island more than a week ago to assert their centuries-old claim over the area.
Malaysian authorities surrounded the group, which is believed to be made up of anywhere between 80 and 400 people, and a standoff has since been in place while negotiations continue.
The Islamic Sultanate of Sulu once controlled parts of Borneo, including the site of the standoff, as well as southern Philippine islands.
The sultanate leased northern Borneo to Europeans in the 1870s. While the sultanate's authority gradually faded as Western colonial powers exerted their influence over the region, it continued to receive lease payments for Sabah.
Heirs to the sultanate still receive nominal yearly compensation from Malaysia under a long-standing agreement. One of the demands from the gunmen is more compensation. With Reuters