The long-standing dispute between Malaysia and the Philippines over their territorial rights to Sabah has intensified, following a recent move by the Philippines to approve a new bill for the inclusion of Sabah as part of the country’s map printed on Philippine passports.
Malaysia said that it remains steadfast in protecting the sovereignty of Sabah. Prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin was quoted by the New Sunday Times as having said: “We will not bow to this claim. Sabah remains in Malaysia and it is an integral part of our country. There should be no attempts to take Sabah out of Malaysia or attempts by anyone to claim Sabah as part of their region.”
The government plans to beef up security along Sabah’s sea borders to prevent the intrusion and entry of illegal immigrants.
Recently, the Philippines’ House Committee on Foreign Affairs approved a substitute bill requiring the printing of the country’s map, including its 322km exclusive economic zone and Sabah, on Philippine passports.
According to news reports, Cagayan de Oro City representative Rufus Rodriguez, the author of the bill, said that it “aims to emphasise and insist on our victory on the West Philippine Sea over China in the International Arbitral Tribunal in the Hague, Netherlands, and our legal and historical rights over Sabah”.
He further added that “the inclusion of the map on our travel document is a strong statement that we are asserting our sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea.”
Meanwhile Sabah’s caretaker chief minister, Mohd Shafie Apdal, said that the Philippines’ never-ending claim on Sabah should be a national agenda to be solved and not used as a political tool, The Star reported.
The report quoted him as having said: “We want the federal government to officially have a government-to-government talk with the Philippines government through an ASEAN platform.”
“The claim itself needs to be erased and done with a long time ago, everything was written and finalised as per the Cobbold Commission when the Federation of Malaysia was formed.”
Shafie said the Philippines’ Sabah claim was never properly dealt with in the past, and that is why it is still continuing.