MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Foreign Affairs on Monday reiterated its call for a Filipino armed group holding fort in Sabah to return home peacefully saying the standoff could potentially impact the on-going peace talks in Mindanao and bilateral ties between the Philippines and Malaysia.
Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez, the DFA spokesperson, said Philippine officials have been in constant coordination with their Malaysian counterparts in hopes of settling the standoff without bloodshed.
“We are endeavoring to have the group leave Lahad Datu peacefully and this remains to be a work in progress in coordination with the Malaysian government. We want this issue to be settled in a peaceful manner,” said Hernandez.
“What is important for now is for them to leave that area because this could affect existing issues we have including peace talks and possible bilateral relations,” said the official in a briefing Monday afternoon.
The DFA said the government has yet to officially confirm the identity and objectives of the armed group that landed on Sabah’s Lahad Datu district last week.
But Sultan Jamalul Kiram had said he sent the group of some 400 people, among them 20 armed men, to establish permanent residence in the area, asserting his family’s ancestral ownership over the land.
The DFA further lauded the Malaysian government’s peaceful approach to the dispute.