Philippine President-elect Duterte set to pursue Sabah claim

Philippines' President-elect Rodrigo Duterte answers questions at a news conference in Davao City, southern Philippines, on May 31, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

DAVAO CITY (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Despite the reported statement of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak discouraging Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte from pursuing the country's Sabah state, Duterte said he would continue to do so, "but only through peaceful means."

Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte said he would stick to the government's original position on the Sabah issue.

"I stick with the original position of the government, nothing has changed," Duterte said in reaction to a statement by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak asking the incoming Philippine leader not to reignite the Sabah dispute.

"Yes," Duterte said, when the Inquirer asked him on his government's plan on the country's claim over the oil-rich Sabah state.

"But only through peaceful means. We don't have the luxury of getting into trouble or another war, we just have to talk to everybody to develop our country," Duterte was reported saying by the paper on Thursday (June 2).

"We can't afford to fight, let's just talk, and I hope the Malaysians will understand," Duterte said. "We will make clear to them what is going to happen," he said. "If we file an actual case in (the international) court, and it is sure we will win, and yet, we don't want trouble, so can we resolve this by other means?"

In a report by the Japan-based The Diplomat, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was quoted as saying on Monday during his keynote address before the Asia-Pacific Roundtable in Kuala Lumpur "that Duterte should instead use his time more productively to help resolve the Moro insurgency than press the Philippines' claim on Sabah".

"That certainly would be more productive than reigniting the Sabah claim issue," The Diplomat quoted Najib as saying.

Najib also urged the incoming Philippine government to implement instead the 2014 peace deal it had forged with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which Kuala Lumpur helped broker.

He said by implementing the deal, "we can help bring to a close a dispute that has cost so many lives, we would be honoured to do so."

Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman has also been quoted by Malaysian media as saying the Philippines' claim was "irrelevant" as the issue had long been settled by the Cobbold Commission.

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