Presidential bets to pursue PH claims in Sabah, look after welfare of 'stateless' Filipinos | Inquirer News

Presidential bets to pursue PH claims in Sabah, look after welfare of ‘stateless’ Filipinos

/ 10:43 PM March 16, 2022
Presidential bets to pursue PH claims in Sabah, look after welfare of 'stateless' Filipinos

Tawi-Tawi and Sabah map (Google maps)

MANILA, Philippines — Five presidential candidates in the May 9 elections are planning to pursue the country’s claims in Sabah in peaceful and diplomatic ways as well as protect Filipinos living on the territory who are currently considered “stateless.”

During the online Bangsamoro Agenda 2022 policy forum on Wednesday, the representatives of five presidential racers revealed their bet’s respective positions and goals regarding the Sabah issue.

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The forum was organized by the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, a Mindanao-based policy center on governance and human security, and International Alert Philippines, a peacebuilding organization working on conflict monitoring, the shadow economies, conflict-sensitive economic governance, and galvanizing support for the peace processes in the Philippines since 1988.

Representing Vice President Leni Robredo in the forum was former Rep. Teddy Baguilat, who said that she is “really committed to the constitution which includes our legitimate historical claims in Sabah.”

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Baguilat, who is running for senator, also pointed out that Robredo is particularly concerned with the welfare of “stateless” Filipinos living in Sabah.

Senatorial candidate Samira Gutoc, who represented Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, echoed Robredo’s stance regarding Filipinos in Sabah. She said the government should assist its citizens living there.

Gutoc said Filipinos in Sabah should be “taken care of and put into a program wherein their ayuda (aid) and needs as Filipinos [are met] because that’s what Bilis Kilos stands for — assistance to the vulnerable.”

Senator Koko Pimentel, who represented Senator Manny Pacquiao in the forum, said that while his candidate agrees with reviving the country’s claim on Sabah, such a plan should be done peacefully.

“Whenever we make a claim, like the Sabah claim, we have to do it peacefully, and in accordance with international law,” Pimentel said.

“It is the responsibility of the Philippine government to safeguard what has been assigned to them by the Sultanate of Sulu,” he added.

As for presidential bet Senator Panfilo Lacson, his representative in the forum – senatorial candidate Manny Piñol – said the country “should come up with a definitive stance with the Sabah issue in a friendly, diplomatic way.”

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Sonny Melencio, campaign manager of Leody de Guzman, meanwhile said that their party standard-bearer believes that “we have to strengthen our claim in Sabah.”

Quoting senatorial aspirant Luke Espiritu, Melencio also noted that the Sabah issue “is not just a property claim. but it is the right [to] self-determination of the people [in Sabah], we have to consult them.”

In 2013, forces led by Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram stormed Lahad Datu in Sabah to assert their claims over the territory located north of Borneo island. The standoff went on for over a month and left about a dozen of Kiram’s followers dead.

The Sulu sultanate once controlled parts of Borneo, including the site of the stand-off, with its heirs receiving a nominal yearly compensation package from Malaysia under a long-standing agreement for possession of Sabah.

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