Former President Fidel V. Ramos on Wednesday stressed he never abandoned the Philippine claim to Sabah and urged President Aquino and Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III to meet face to face to discuss how to end the standoff in the Malaysian state.
“The two principals should meet one on one, just the two of them, face to face,” Ramos said in a press conference at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, shortly before he left for a business trip to Taiwan.
Ramos said the National Security Council and a full Cabinet meeting should have been convened as soon as the crisis ensued, although he said he respected Aquino’s actions.
In the meeting, Ramos said, Aquino should secure a pledge from Kiram to be allowed to represent the sultanate in talks with Malaysia regarding the Sabah claim and in turn, Aquino should vow to do a “good job” representing the sultanate.
Ramos said that his administration did not give up the Sabah claim and scored what he described as “instant experts” who hinted as such.
“We did not abandon the claim. But you must put it in the back burner because you must prioritize the issues you want to attend to. But that does not mean you put the loss of lives in the back burner,” he explained.
If he were Aquino, Ramos said, he also would tell Kiram to stop sending forces to Sabah to save them from death at the hands of Malaysian troops.
World heard message
To Kiram and other claimants, Ramos said his message is: “[Sending forces there] is creating violence. The world is now different from what it was in the 19th century when the transfers of sovereignty, ownership and rights took place. Do you want the young people to experience war?”
“I think the message of the sultanate has been received by the world. What happened (violence) is enough,” he said.
He also said he disagreed with pronouncements that the sultan’s troops who went to Sabah should be considered terrorists and charged criminally, adding that these should be talked about first in the dialogue.
Afterward, Aquino should meet the leader of Malaysia to present what was agreed upon in the meeting, Ramos said.
The former President said the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia
-Philippine East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) should be revived by the countries concerned because it was a key to improving the conditions of the people of southern Philippines, Borneo island and adjacent areas.
“The BIMP-EAGA is the win-win strategy if we are looking from the perspective of a better, more prosperous, more peaceful, more harmonious and more sustainable future for all peoples,” Ramos said.
He said the potentials of the BIMP-EAGA were so great that even foreign local governments such as Australia’s Northern Territory and Western Australia state had joined the grouping as associates.
Ramos added that during his administration, he tried to set up a corporation that would develop BIMP-EAGA. The company would be jointly operated by Malaysia, the sultanate’s list of the heirs and private sector partners.
The proceeds of the company could substitute for the annual 5,300 Malaysian ringgits as rent to the heirs of the sultanate.
Recognize legal sultan
During his term, however, the setting up of the corporation was aborted because of the delay in finalizing the heirs of the sultanate. He said he has yet to hear from the Aquino administration if it had officially recognized Kiram as the legal sultan.