Roxas pushes for ‘aggressive diplomacy’ to end Sabah crisis


Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas. FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—”Aggressive diplomacy” is the only viable option for the Philippines to end the crisis in Sabah that left at least 60  dead and sent hundreds of others residing in the disputed island fleeing for safety, according to Cabinet officials.

The crisis has entered its fifth week without any signs it would be resolved soon. But Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas said Sunday that communication lines between President Aquino and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak remained open.

“[Let’s] continue … reaching out and [appealing] to Malaysia,’’ Roxas said when asked if the government was exploring other ways to end the violence sparked by the February 9 incursion into Sabah by 200-odd followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III led by his brother Agbimuddin Kiram.

Pressed further, Roxas said: “Aggressive diplomacy is our only viable option.”

Over the last few weeks, concerns grew over the fate of Agbimuddin and his followers, especially the wounded, as well as the safety of the estimated 800,000 Filipinos living and working in Sabah.

The standoff led to a firefight on March 1, and an air and ground assault against Agbimuddin’s group that left at least 60 dead. As Malaysian police cracked down on Agbimuddin’s followers, more than 2,000 undocumented Filipinos have sailed back to Mindanao for fear of arrests.

So far, Malaysia has not acceded to long-standing Philippine requests to allow a “humanitarian ship” to dock in Lahad Datu to attend to the wounded, and ferry back home Filipinos who wanted to go home.

But officials indicated that there was no reason to press the panic button yet, since Mr. Aquino and Najib were in touch.

“P-Noy (Mr. Aquino) and PM Najib lines are open and robust,” Roxas said in a text message when asked if the situation has reached a point for Mr. Aquino to phone Najib to allow Philippine humanitarian team access to the wounded and the rest of distressed Filipinos in Sabah.

The lines between Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and his Malaysian counterpart were also open, he added.

Secretary Herminio Coloma of the Presidential Communications Operations Office agreed that diplomacy remained the best tack to peacefully end the standoff.

After all, he pointed out, Malaysia has been a long-time partner of the Philippines in bringing about peace in Mindanao.

“Again, we can’t look at it separately from what has been an ongoing peace process in which Malaysia is our active partner,” Coloma said by phone. “You have a current joint project for achieving complete peace in Bangsamoro. Why disrupt it with another issue that has long been dormant? We have to ask ourselves: where is the rhythm and flow of our bilateral relations? Our common concern is to form Bangsamoro. This is not to deny that there is a latent, dormant issue.”

Like Roxas, Coloma said there was an “ongoing dialogue” between Philippine and Malaysian officials over bringing a peaceful end to the standoff.

“My overall impression is that there are continuing and ongoing conversations and consultations between the two countries and these are being carried out by the DFA,” he said. “Relations have not been significantly affected by this.”

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  • Hey_Dudes

    This crisis can only resolved militarily. However, since we only have military but not enough equipment to fight a war, this issue is best forgotten. Diplomacy will not, never will and forever will be lost in translation. If you think Malaysia would just drop everything and give Sabah back to whomever is claiming it, Jones bridge is for sale for a song let me know.

    • Mamang Pulis

      these issues will linger on beyond our lifetime… kung sisipagin kayo mag hanap, sinulat ko na dito na sinara na nila ang pag asa nila {SKIII} na makipag usap sa KL noong mag ka duguan na. At tutal, may mga binitawang salita sila—mas mabuti pang tapusin na nila ang inumpisahan nila—mamatay sila sa Sabah kaysa uuwi sila sito sa kahihiyaan at makakalaboso pa. Ang galing ano? napa convenient para sa mga may malalaking “business interest” sa Sabah kapag nautas na lahat ang angkan ni SKIII–at sino sino ang mga yun? Napa convenient din sa mga agit prop na pag bitak bitakin ang mindanao…Ang Republika. Peace sa “Bangsamoro” ba kamo na brokered ng KL na madederail? Magkaroon man ng “peace “eh paano kung maisipan ng Bangsamoro na bumaliktad ulit at sumapi sa Malaysia?

  • Edgardo Mendoza

    aggressive diplomacy millitay action is sulution

  • Mamang Pulis

    Matanong ko lang mister palengkero–

    ang aggressive diplomacy ba ay yun gagawaan mo ng kaso yun mga tumtawid pauwi ng sabah sakay ng lantsa? Para mapakita sa KL na tumutupad kayo sa usapan.

    ang aggressive diplomacy ba ay yun pag iintayin mo ang mga tumtawid ng dagat para maka pag photo ops kayo?

    mukhang nahuli ka ng ANIM na buwan ata—-o sabihin na nating TATLONG TAON.

    pinamukha nyo sa buong mundo na nilaglag nyo noon umpisa pa ang framework ang mga ibang muslim stakeholders.

    IISANG panig lang pinakinggan nyo bago kayo nagkapirmahan.

    at may suhol pa.

    Di ba pera pera lang naman ang simula’t sapul nito? Renta na gusto taasan, Suhol sa MILF at sa Japan pa binigay para umupo sa negotiating table…

  • 3Jomari3

    Malaysia has not investment in talking, possession is 90% of ownership. They have the army to protect Sabah, we don’t. More importantly, they got the message straight and clear that PNoy is not really serious about Sabah, making him an ally of Malaysia on the issue. He even threatens to charge his countrymen on this for crying out loud. So, Mar, save you laway. This ain’t going anywhere, save face while you can. Go the the UN or ICJ buti pa.

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