MANILA, Sept 15 (Mabuhay) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night appealed to the Malaysian government to help Filipinos “in your country,” despite the “ticklish” issue of Sabah.
According to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, 2,000 Filipinos had been repatriated from Sabah, including 400 Filipinos who arrived on Monday. There were still 3,000 Filipinos in Sabah awaiting repatriation.
“We are trying our best to appeal to the humanitarian sense of the Malaysian government to please help our citizens in your country, as we would do for your citizens if they are in our country,” Duterte said in his nationally-televised address.
In late August, the Malaysian government rejected the Philippines’ territorial claim over Sabah through a note verbale submitted to the United Nations.
In its note verbale submitted by the Permanent Mission of Malaysia to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, dated August 27, Kuala Lumpur said “Malaysia has never recognized the Republic of the Philippines’ claim to the Malaysian state of Sabah, formerly known as North Borneo.”
Citing the Judgement of the International Court of Justice dated October 23, 2001 in the “Case Concerning Sovereignty over Pu/au Ligitan and Pu/au Sipadan and the Application by the Philippines for Permission to Intervene,” Malaysia stressed that “the Republic of the Philippines’ claim to North Borneo clearly has no basis under international law.”
In July, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. commented on a tweet by the United States Embassy on the assistance given to Filipinos repatriated from Sabah, Malaysia, and are now staying in Zamboanga City and Bongao, Tawi-Tawi.
“Sabah is not in Malaysia if you want to have anything to do with the Philippines,” Locsin said.
In response, Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein called Locsin’s tweet an “irresponsible statement that affects bilateral ties” between the Philippines and Malaysia.
Both Locsin and Hussein have summoned the respective envoys representing Manila and Kuala Lumpur over their exchange.
Meanwhile, Malacañang earlier said the Philippines will continue to pursue good relations with Malaysia despite their long-running dispute over the resource-rich Sabah.
Apart from the Philippines’ claim over Sabah, Malaysia also “categorically rejects” the “excessive maritime claims” arising from the Kalayaan Island Group as asserted by Manila “as they have not conformed to Part IV of UNCLOS 1982 and have no basis under international law.” (MNS)