BAGUIO CITY, Philippines— Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima said Saturday said that the situation in Sabah remains “volatile” as heirs to the Sultanate of Sulu pursue their territorial claims to the eastern Malaysian state.
Purisima said that the Philippine police attaché in Malaysia, Senior Superintendent Carlo Collado, belonged to the PNP Directorate for Intelligence and thus “reports to us.”
Asked what the latest report from Collado was about the standoff in Sabah, Purisima replied, “Perhaps we will just take that up next time because the situation is volatile because it involves more of diplomacy.”
Pressed for elaboration, Purisima added, “If you say something that (involves) another country, you just don’t say anything because we consider diplomacy.”
Purisima declined to comment on the group of Filipinos, some of them reportedly armed, who claimed to be followers of the sultan of Sulu and were in Sabah to pursue their claim to the territory themselves because they felt betrayed by the Philippine government and had been left out of the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Malaysian police forces have surrounded the group of about 100 and were negotiating with their leaders to leave.
Polly Cunanan, spokesperson for the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, said in a text message to Inquirer that the OPAPP “has no official statement yet” on the claim of the heirs of the sultan of Sulu led by Crown Prince Agbimuddin Kiram.
Armed Forces chief of staff General Emmanuel Bautista said the Philippine and Malaysian militaries have agreed to tighten border patrols to prevent other “illegal entries” into each other’s territories to avoid complicating the current situation in Sabah.
The members of the Royal Sultanate Army, some of whom are armed, have congregated in a village in Lahad Datu in East Sabah since last week, according to Bautista.
Bautista told reporters on Friday night that he has been talking with his Malaysian counterpart, General Zulkifli Zainal Abidin, about the situation.
“Ours is to help them contain the situation. They requested us to patrol our borders as they will also patrol their side of the borders to prevent illegal entrance so as not to further complicate the situation. They are going to address peacefully the situation there,” Bautista said.
Bautista also said he had spoken with Esmail Dalus Kiram II and that the sultan had “agreed to discuss the matter peacefully with the Malaysian (security forces). They are in Sabah. They will resolve the issue there peacefully.”
“They agreed to talk to each other. They will return to the Philippines in due time,” Bautista said.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said that the members of the Royal Sultanate Army were “restricted to some areas —but they are not detained — so that they will be isolated from the Filipinos who are permanent residents of Sabah.”
Gazmin reiterated that the renewed claim by the heirs and followers of the sultan of Sulu over Sabah was not sanctioned by the Philippine government.