World | Philippines

Government agreement with Milf will not be affected by Sabah issue

Moro official hopeful that the issue on the Sulu Sultanate’s claim on areas in Sabah will be resolved soon

  • By Gilbert P. Felongco, Correspondent
  • Published: 15:46 February 20, 2013
  • Gulf News

Manila: A veteran Moro official said the Philippine government’s peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front would not be affected by tensions in Sabah, Malaysia’s Lahad Datu village.

“I do not see any reason why events taking place in Sabah will have an impact on the government’s Framework Peace Agreement with the Milf,” Al Tillah, adviser to Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram told Gulf News.

Tillah, former governor of the Tawi-Tawi island group in the south westernmost tip of the Philippines said the issue concerning the Sultanate of Sulu’s claim on is a separate matter to that of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro that President Benigno Aquino signed with the Milf last October.

“The Sulu issue is a bigger and earlier dated issue,” he said.

The Framework Agreement will serve as a roadmap that, not only will ultimately end hostilities, but will chart the direction of nationhood for the country’s millions of Muslims, most of which are in Mindanao.

While Tillah said that he is optimistic of the Milf peace agreement, he is also hopeful that the issue on the Sulu Sultanate’s claim on areas in Sabah will be resolved soon.

“Everybody listens to reason and we have valid documents that Sabah is rightfully owned by the Sultanate of Sulu based on the Lease Agreement signed by the then Sultan of Sabah dating back 1878. Our claim to Sabah dates back to the time when Malaysia and even the Philippines were recognised internationally,” he said.

He said that in terms of the number of Sulu and Tawi Tawi residents staying in Sabah, the Sultanate of Sulu can claim that is has the numbers to comprise a significant minority.

“One million would be a good estimate,” Tillah said on the estimated number of Filipinos in Sabah.

He said President Benigno Aquino should bring the issue before an international forum “so that justice can be delivered.”

“For many years people in Sulu and Tawi Tawi as well as Basilan and all the other islands that comprise the Sultanate of Sulu had been deprived of what is rightfully ours. It is time for the President to make a stand on this issue and come out with the truth,” he said.

Earlier this month a group comprising of several boatloads of residents from Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and escorted by a contingent of the Royal Army of the Sultanate of Sulu landed on the shores Lahad Datu, a coastal village located off Tawi-Tawi. The group is claiming the Sulu Sultanate’s sovereignty over the coastal village and had initially numbered about 200. Later reports said that they had grown in number to around a thousand.

Currently the group, about 200 of which are reportedly armed, is engaged in a stand-off with the Malaysian armed forces.

Tillah said the forces of Sulu Sultanate “are ready to defend their claim over Sabah.”

News Editor's choice