MANILA - President Aquino has maintained the Philippines will not drop its claim over Sabah, but that there are factors to consider before making moves to press for it.
In a portion of a transcript of an interview by journalist Raissa Robles on the Sabah issue, the President said giving up Sabah would “open such a big can of worms in this country.”
He said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima did a study on the matter and “one of the biggest issues there is the right of self-determination which, I understand, is part of the United Nations Charter.”
“It’s supposed to trump everything, whether historical fact, et cetera. At the end of the day, people who are living there, if they are asked, will they say they want to join us or they want to join Malaysia? There was supposed to have been a vote done,” Aquino said.
The Philippines maintains a territorial claim over eastern Sabah (formerly known as North Borneo ) by saying the agreement signed in 1878 between the Sultan of Sulu and the North Borneo Chartered Co. was merely a lease and did not strip the country of its sovereignty over the area.
But Malaysia considers the Sabah dispute as a “non-issue” as it interprets the 1878 agreement as that of cession and deems that residents of Sabah had exercised their right to self-determination when they joined to form the Malayan Federation in 1963.
Aquino also said he would not open himself up to “such a juicy item for all of the media to pounce on.”
“To anybody who has entertained this idea that that was possible, that really smacks so much of your rationality,” he said.
Aquino said he would be able to decide what to do “after I’m presented with a very good case.”
“But it goes back to that enshrined right of self-determination. They will have to be asked where they want to go. And I am told that previously there had already been a plebiscite done, to which they said they wanted to join the Malayan Federation,” he said.
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