The DFA issued the statement amid the furor raised by Malaysia, which considers Sabah its territory, over the presence of over100 allegedly armed Filipinos who reportedly wanted to reclaim the island that they believe they own historically.
At the same time, the DFA said that Armed Forces chief of staff General Emmanuel Bautista clarified to the Malaysian military chief that the insistence of the group to remain in Sabah was not sanctioned by the Philippine government.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario also sought the Malaysian authorities’ assurance that the rights of Filipinos “who are permanent residents in Sabah and who may be among the group” would be respected.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman told Del Rosario that the Secretary of the Malaysian government was addressing the presence of some 200 Filipinos, some of whom they believed to be armed, in Lahad Datu.
Aman told Del Rosario that they were negotiating with the group “to encourage them to leave peacefully,” according to the DFA.
Local authorities have stepped up patrols and security measures in the waters off Tawi-Tawi and nearby islands.
Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez told Radyo Inquirer 990AM that military officials were coordinating with their Malaysian counterparts.