MANILA: Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. will revive an office in the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) dedicated to efforts to reclaim Sabah, which he called “the tropical island of Borneo,” again stirring up a diplomatic row with Malaysia. Locsin called to mind the defunct DFA Office of North Borneo Affairs after implying that “huge” bribe offers were made to Philippine officials over the years to drop the Sabah claim. “As a matter of history there have been repeated offers to abandon our Sabah claim from aspiring presidential candidates since the late 1970s, usually opposition because they are most in need of campaign funds but administration as well,” Locsin tweeted on Sunday.
Continuing his tirade on Monday, Locsin said “the Filipino public must know that what is on offer is huge so the temptation to betray is commensurately humongous.” “Leaving it to diplomats is not enough to safeguard the national interest in the matter. There’s the additional temptation to feel welcome in the host country,” he added. He recalled “an old bureau within the DFA exclusively devoted to the issue,” referring to the Office of North Borneo Affairs.
“Wonder if it’s still up. Will resurrect or revitalize it,” Locsin said. The Philippines claims Sabah, which has been part of Malaysia since its formation in 1963, based on the historical ownership of the Sultan of Sulu over what used to be North Borneo. Locsin said the Philippine claim to Sabah was “longstanding and well-known” and predated the creation of Malaysia in 1963. “While we have always endeavored not to let it affect our relations with Malaysia, well, it’s up to them. But we will certainly never give it up,” Locsin said in an interview on Thursday. “As the successor in sovereignty of the Sultanate of Sulu, the Philippines has legal ownership and sovereignty over Northern Borneo, or what I call the tropical island of Borneo,” he said. — inquirer.net