Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I was in attendance the other day for our regular Carmen Guerrero-Nakpil / Cafe Havana Group for lunch. While sitting right next to Chitang Nakpil, I found myself face to face with former Senator Santanina Rasul. And then the conversation varied from the Ampatuans to the MOA-AD and to Gimo de Vega's son being appointed as our consul to Barcelona, Spain. I asked the good senator where our country is now regarding its claim to Sabah.

Nina Rasul claims our claim must be pursued. For indeed, Sabah belongs to the Philippines and not to Malaysia. Sad to say, at the utterance of the name "Sabah," the next thing that comes to one's mind is the country of Malaysia - as in Sabah, Malaysia.

In my research, I found out that there was once a foreign-based multi-million dollar lobby working for the dropping of the country's territorial claim to oil-rich Sabah. This lobby group was said to be concentrating its efforts on the Philippine Senate after it had reportedly secured support from the Executive Department and the Lower House. Most of our senators stood pat on their stand that the Philippines should not drop its claim on Sabah. The Sabah issue has long been a source of friction between the Philippines and Malaysia. The Aquino government decided to give in to Malaysia not only to preserve good relations between the two countries but also to promote regional cooperation among ASEAN members. The Sabah lobby report is another sorry legacy of the Aquino regime.

According to some members of the Constitutional Convention which drafted the 1971 Constitution, Sabah and even Guam were included in the definition of Philippine territory. That early, they said, there already was a Sabah lobby operating. The Sabah claim would have been dropped had not former Ambassador Eduardo Quintero, then chairman of the committee on territory, botched the activities of the lobby group and included Sabah in the definition of Philippine territory.

Interest over Sabah has become more intense because of confirmed reports that its oil deposits are even larger than those of neighboring Brunei. There are close to half a million Filipinos, mostly Muslims, who have setlled in Sabah.

Malaysia entertains the justifiable fear that if hostilities break out between the two countries over territory, it will be a walk-away for the Philippines because of the presence of the large Filipino community there. This is said to be one of the reasons for Malaysia's modernization of its armed forces, notably its navy.

Brunei is said to be closely watching developments in Sabah and has instructed its envoys to Malaysia and the Philippines to keep its foreign ministries fully informed on developments.
(Image from courtesy of Ding Gagelonia)

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