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Sabah Dispute and Numerous Problems in Southern Philippines

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The visit by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Bin Mohamad, to the Philippines in March of this year once again raised the issue of ownership over Malaysia’s state of Sabah.

Although during the visit itself this problem was not discussed, afterwards Mahathir Bin Mohamad told journalists during an interview that there were no outstanding claims from either side, but an official statement from Manila said President Duterte’s view was that there were remaining grievances.

In 2016, the newly elected President Rodrigo Duterte confirmed that he would support the government’s original position on the Sabah issue, i.e. that the Philippines would lay claim to this territory rich in crude oil.

But as early as November of that same year, Rodrigo Duterte and the then Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, agreed to postpone any negotiations to resolve this dispute, which in the past led to the severance of diplomatic relations between the two nations.

This key issue, which plagues the relationship between the two countries, is linked with the complex history of ownership of Sabah, and a wider range of problems connected with Southern Philippines and East Malaysia, where not only Sabah but the state of Sarawak is located.

In the 19th century the British received the lands in Sabah and Sarawak (at the time North Borneo) from the Sultan of Brunei in exchange for aid they had provided. At the time it also came to light that the Sultan of Brunei had earlier handed over the north-eastern part of Sabah to the Sultan of Sulu, who was the ruler in the southern part of the Philippines. Hence, the Europeans were also forced to seek concessions from the latter.

In 1963, Malaysia laid its claim over the state of Sabah, which led to a conflict with the Philippines. In the end, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines signed the........

© New Eastern Outlook