Manila, MINA — President Rodrigo Duterte may not bring up the Sabah dispute during his meeting Monday with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad in Kuala Lumpur, Philstar reported, citing Malacañang.
“Probably not,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a text message Sunday when asked if Duterte would bring up the issue during the bilateral meet.
Duterte previously said he wanted to discuss the threat posed by the Islamic State (IS) and insurgency with Mahathir, who won a shocking electoral victory last May.
Sabah, which is located south of Mindanao, is being administered by the Malaysian government. The Sulu sultanate used to rule over portions of southern Philippines and Sabah. The British government transferred Sabah to the Federation of Malaysia in 1963.
The Philippines claims that Sabah was not ceded but leased to the British North Borneo Co. Heirs of the sultan of Sulu are still receiving lease payments for Sabah. Malaysia insists that Sabah has been recognized by the international community as part of its territory since the federation was created in 1963.
Clashes erupted in 2013 after about 200 followers of the late Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram occupied Lahad Datu in Sabah to assert their rights over the area.
A proposed charter drafted by a consultative committee formed by Duterte asserts the Philippines’ claim on Sabah and on the West Philippine Sea. Article I Section 1 of the proposed charter states that the Philippines “has sovereignty over other territories belonging to the Philippines by historic right or legal title.”
Duterte and Mahathir’s meeting would be held a day after they watched the boxing match between Filipino Sen. Manny Pacquiao and Argentine boxer Lucas Matthysee together. Pacquiao won the bout after knocking out Matthysee in the seventh round.
Duterte told reporters after the bout that he was “inspired” to meet with Mahathir because of Pacquiao’s win. Mahathir said in jest that he and Duterte have a “boxing diplomacy” but they do not punch each other. (T/RS5/RS1)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)