Isko Moreno wants PH to pursue Sabah claim via 'legal' channels

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 09 2021 04:38 PM

MANILA - Aksyon Demokratiko standard bearer and Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso on Thursday said the Philippines will pursue its Sabah claim through legal channels if he wins the 2022 presidential race.

"If it is ours historically and we have a valid claim about it, then we must pursue it," Domagoso told reporters on the sidelines of a pre-campaign event in Malabon.

"Ang gusto ko kapag gagamit tayo ng puwersa yung legal na pamamaraan. Wag tayo magpapadala sa init at bugso ng damdamin dahil baka mamaya, mamali tayo, ma-fumble tayo," he said.

(If we will use force, I want it to be through legal channels. Let us not be swayed by the heat of the moment or by emotional outbursts because we might end up committing mistakes.)

The South China Morning Post earlier reported that several mayors from Sulu are allegedly planning to recruit some 600 individuals to form a "Royal Sulu Army" that will help retake Sabah from Malaysian control.

In 2013, members of the Royal Sulu Army and the Malaysian military had a stand off in Sabah near the small coastal town of Lahad Datu over the planned "deportation" of some Filipinos residing in the contested territory.

The Manila mayor said he is not in favor of engaging in violent acts to assert the Philippines' rights to Sabah.

"In a civilized world, in a civilized time, we must abide by law and order," Domagoso said.

"If there is a forum for that like the United Nations, tayo, hindi tayo titigil (we will not stop). We will be fearless in claiming what is ours," he said.

"We must pursue it, the way with the West Philippine Sea," he said.

The Philippines has laid a subdued claim over Sabah, a territory southwest of Sulu and governed by Malaysia, citing a land lease agreement in 1878 between the Sultanate of Sulu and the British North Borneo Chartered Co.

The Sulu sultanate, first founded in the 1400s, was once a regional power center, controlling islands in the Muslim southern Philippines and parts of Borneo including Sabah until its demise a century ago.

Malaysia pays a token amount to the Sultanate each year for the "rental" of Sabah state - an arrangement that stretches back to British colonial times.

Last year, Malaysia submitted a note verbale to the United Nations, calling the Philippines' Sabah ownership an "excessive maritime claim." 

At least 300,000 undocumented Filipinos reside in Sabah, according to Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan.

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