BALER, Aurora—The camp of Vice President Jejomar Binay was unfazed by Malaysia’s statement that it would not entertain any external claim to Sabah.
In an interview with reporters on Wednesday during the United Nationalist Alliance’s campaign sortie here, Binay’s running mate Sen. Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan said an administration under Binay would “all the way” pursue the Philippines’ claim to Sabah.
Honasan said the Philippines is foregoing at least $72 billion in revenues by refusing to claim its stake in the disputed territory in Malaysia.
“All the way. Because of foregone revenues. Can you imagine $72 billion ang foregone revenues? Can you imagine what kind of money can fund in terms of basic services, like food, clothing, shelter?” Honasan said.
He said a Binay administration would not want to wage war, and instead resort to backchanneling and bring the dispute to the negotiating table.
Honasan said the next administration should conduct the talks behind closed doors and not over the media.
He said the problem is that Malaysia is airing grievances on the Philippines’ claim over its local press.
“The problem is we’re doing this over the media. We’re putting ourselves in the corner. Ngayon kailangan iexercise ang tinatawag na backchanneling para hindi nagkakahiyaan (Now we have to resort to backchanneling instead so no party is coy),” Honasan said.
Honasan made the reaction to the The Star report that the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs had called over the Embassy’s Charge d’ Affairs Maria Antonina M Mendoza-Oblena over Binay’s remarks pursuing a claim over Sabah.
“The Malaysian government reiterates its position that it does not recognize and will not entertain any claims by any party on Sabah,” Wisma Putra was quoted in the report as saying.
In his nationwide campaign sorties, Binay said his administration would pursue the Philippines’ claim to Sabah, echoing the views of his senatorial candidate Sulu Sultanate Princess Jacel Kiram, the daughter of self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.
Princess Jacel Kiram in her campaign speeches said the $72 billion revenue from Sabah could have supplied the country’s rice resources to eliminate hunger.
Malaysia made the statement against the Philippines’ claim three years after the late Sultan Kiram’s men waged a stand-off in Lahad Datu to stake a territorial claim in Sabah. They were charged for rebellion there.
Sulu claimed Sabah, a Malasyian federal state, based on historical right. The Sultan of Brunei had promised to give a territory in North Borneo in exchange for the Sulu sultanate’s military aid to stop the 10-year civil war there.
After the victory of Sultan Muaddin of Brunei with the Sulu sultanates’ help, he ceded Sabah to the Sultan of Sulu in 1704.
Amina Rasul, lead convenor of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy, had said there are at least 10 sultan-claimants in Sulu, four of them Kirams, a dynasty whose bloodline originated from the 33rd sultan Esmael Kiram I.
Honasan said an administration under Binay would “hit the ground running” in pursuing the claim to Sabah.
“Pag-upo ng susunod na administration (Once the next administration begins), and hopefully it would be a Binay administration, we don’t have time, we have to meet and sit down and say what we do now – we hit the ground running, with a clear foreign policy and a calibrated approach to that issue,” Honasan said. IDL
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