MANILA - The Philippines' top diplomat on Monday blasted a photo caption used by the US Embassy in the Philippines, which says Sabah is part of Malaysia.
In a series of tweets, Foreign Affairs Sec. Teodoro Locsin Jr. berated the Embassy for saying that Sabah is in Malaysia, referring to the Philippines' claim to the territory.
"Sabah is not in Malaysia if you want to have anything to do with the Philippines," Locsin said, reacting to a post about the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Manila's distribution of hygiene kits to Filipinos repatriated from Sabah.
In another post, Locsin said the US Embassy should edit their post.
"You better edit that announcement if you know what's good for you," he wrote.
In separate posts dated July 15 and July 27, the US Embassy in Manila announced they distributed hygiene kits to the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Region IX for use by "returning Filipino repatriates from Sabah, Malaysia who arrived in Zamboanga City and Bongao, Tawi Tawi. "
The US Embassy in the Philippines has yet to react to Locsin's comment, as of posting.
In 2019, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said the Philippines has no claim to Sabah, a territory south of the country declared part of the Malaysian federation in 1963.
Malacañang, however, disputed Mahathir's statement, saying the Philippines has a claim over Sabah.
The Philippines laid claim over Sabah, a territory part of Malaysia’s northern Borneo, citing a land lease agreement in 1878 between the Sultanate of Sulu and the British North Borneo Chartered Co.
There had only been intermittent discussions between the Philippines and Malaysia over the claim, and the latter has continued to govern the territory. In November 2016, Duterte and then Prime Minister Najib Razak agreed to set aside the dispute.
In 2013, hundreds of militants from Tawi-Tawi went to Lahad Datu in Sabah to assert their claim, calling themselves "Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo.”
Malaysia has sentenced 9 Filipinos to death over the incident.