MANILA, Philippines – The “clock is ticking away” for the Filipinos defying Malaysian security forces in Sabah as the deadline for the self-proclaimed royal Sulu army to leave the state expires in a few hours.
Malaysian online newspaper The Star reported on Sunday, February 24, that although the Philippine government requested on Friday to extend the deadline another 4 days, until Tuesday, Malaysia only agreed to a 48-hour extension until Sunday.
But the Filipinos show “no sign of giving up peacefully” despite running short of supplies and being surrounded by local security forces in the area, the report added.
The Star said the group led by Raja Muda Azzumudie, the brother of Sulu sultan Jamalul Kiram III, has been ordered “to stay put in the village till the Sabah claim demands were discussed, but to avoid violence.”
President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday stressed that sending armed men to Sabah is not the right way to resolve the Philippines’ historical claim over the Malaysian state formerly part of the Sulu Sultanate. He added, “we have to have first a resolution to the current crisis and later on a long-term solution to this dispute.”
Both Malacañang and Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario have consistently assured the public that the claim over Sabah is not a priority now for the Philippines.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte on Saturday also ruled out sending UN peacekeepers to the area as the Moro National Liberation Front had suggested.
Sulu and its sultan once controlled parts of Borneo, including the site of the current standoff between a group of Filipinos and Malaysian security forces.
The heirs of the sultan have been receiving a nominal yearly compensation package from Malaysia under a long-standing agreement for possession of Sabah, a claim that has not been actively pursued by the Philippines since 1964. – with reports from Carlos Santamaria/Rappler.com