MANILA - The Sultanate of Sulu may have basis for its claim on Sabah in Malaysia, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Friday.
He said Kuala Lumpur pays the sultanate around 5,000 ringgit as annual rent for the area.
"If you are being paid, you have a claim, isn't it? That is your basis there. Even without saying anything, the fact (remains) that you are being paid. Meaning, what is the 5,000 ringgits for?" he said.
However, Gazmin said he is against the use of violence in the issue.
"You can settle this (issue) before going there. In other words, the process leading to their actions is apparently not right," the defense chief added.
He said the government is askin Sultan Ismael Kiram to convince his brother, Kiram Jamalul, and his followers to return to Mindanao.
Philippine military officials are also in talks with their Malaysian counterparts to resolve the issue.
"I'm in touch with the defense minister, Defense Minister (Ahmad Zahidi) Jamid and we are agreeable that this should be solved amicably, peacefully, without any violence whatsoever," Gazmin said.
He said the Philippine Navy deployed ships in Sulu Sea to set up a naval blockade.
Gazmin said Malaysia is cooperating with the Philippines to peacefully resolve the standoff.
"The initial deadline was Wednesday and moved to Friday. Probably, once they see our gesture that we're trying to resolve the issue by getting the right parties to go there, then probably they will extend some more until such time that this is settled very peacefully," he said.