Locsin asserts anew PH claim on Sabah
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.’s quarrel with the United States Embassy over Sabah has turned into a diplomatic row with Malaysia that was played on microblogging app Twitter.
Locsin blew up the issue after his counterpart, Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein announced on Twitter on Wednesday he will summon Philippine Ambassador Charles Jose to explain Locsin’s “irresponsible statement” that Sabah belongs to the Philippines.
On Thursday, Locsin not only stood his ground on the Philippines’ historical claim to Sabah, in the northeastern tip of Borneo Island. He also brought up Malaysia’s attempt to sabotage the Philippines’ arbitration victory against China’s grab of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.
He also shared on Twitter a former senator’s accusation that Malaysia secretly supported the Muslim rebellion in Mindanao.
US roleLocsin said he will also summon Malaysian Ambassador Norman bin Muhamad, giving the order to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) through Twitter.
Turning on the US Embassy, whose social media statement on July 27 wrongly referred to Sabah as part of Malaysia, Locsin dredged up the United States’ role decades ago in discouraging the Philippines from asserting its claim.
The Philippines has a historical claim to Sabah based on the ownership of the Sultan of Sulu over what used to be North Borneo, but has archived the issue for the past several decades.
Locsin disclosed on Thursday that Malaysia had summoned Jose apparently over his tweet that Malaysia “tried to sabotage” the Philippines’ victory before a United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea arbitral body in 2016.
In explaining why he rejected his predecessor Albert del Rosario’s proposal to bring the arbitral ruling to the UN General Assembly in September, Locsin tweeted on July 22: “Put it to a vote? China has all the votes in UN … Even Asean rejected it when we won. Malaysia tried to sabotage it. We were alone. US ignored it.”
“You summoned our ambassador for a historically factual statement I made: that Malaysia tried to derail the Arbitral Award. This was reported to us by our diplomats on the scene and our German lawyer. None may share our Hague victory who worked against it,” Locsin tweeted on Thursday.
He said “no country can tell another what it can and cannot say about what the latter regards as rightfully its own,” adding that he “never objected to China making contrary claims nor China to me doing the same with our uncompromising stand” over the West Philippine Sea.
“I don’t insist China say only what we want to hear about the Arbitral Award. It is free to say what it wants while we say and do what needs doing. That holds for Sabah,” Locsin said.
‘Funding and arms’
“And that’s China we’re talking about—the second biggest economy and military power in the 21st century. I am summoning the Malaysian ambassador,” he continued, tagging the DFA’s Twitter account.
Locsin retweeted former senator JV Ejercito’s tweet: “They also are allegedly secretly supporting the terrorists in the South. I suspect that a lot of funding and arms of these bandits are coursed through Malaysia. So that the Philippine government will have its hands full to even think about the Sabah issue.” Thanking Ejercito for his support, Locsin added, “The Armed Forces does not forget who bankrolled the Muslim secession with arms and cash and bled us dry.”
Locsin said he will soon meet with top officials of the US Department of State and said he will raise the Sabah issue.
“It started with a US Embassy tweet that hasn’t been taken down. When the country united around Marcos (to claim Sabah), including his critics, the US discouraged an attempt on our part to concretely assert our claim. The US didn’t want us to add to their growing problem in Vietnam. History,” he tweeted.
In his press briefing on Thursday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the government has “always recognized that there was a conflicting claim of territory over Sabah.”
“Sabah was given to us by our brothers from Brunei. It was given to the Sultanate of Sulu, and then assigned to the Republic of the Philippines,” Roque said.
He added “We recognize that this matter should not affect our ongoing bilateral ties with Malaysia. It has not affected it in the recent years, and we will continue to have healthy bilateral relations with Malaysia despite the issue of Sabah.” —WITH A REPORT FROM JULIE M. AURELIO
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