Sabah claim not part of agenda in Aquino's Malaysia visit
MANILA, Philippines – When President Benigno Aquino III meets Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in Malaysia by the end of February, the Philippines' dormant claim to Sabah won't be part of the agenda.
Instead, the two leaders will talk about the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Malaysia serves as third-party facilitator to the talks.
"Sabah [is] not part of the agenda. There will be lots of topics, bilateral meetings on peace, trade, and commerce. But they are offering lots of help, especially for the Bangsamoro," Aquino told reporters on Wednesday, February 19.
"Palagay ko kukumustahin din natin 'yung kalagayan ng ating mga kababayan na nagpunta doon sa Lahad Datu na incident," he added. (I think I will also ask about the status of our countrymen who went to Lahad Datu.)
Aquino's visit to capital Kuala Lumpur comes a year after the bloody Sabah standoff.
Feeling left out of the peace talks, armed men who called themselves members of the "Royal Sultanate Forces" trooped to Lahad Datu in Sabah in February 2013 to assert their claim on the territory.
A number of Filipinos are now facing terrorism-related charges over the botched claim.
Amid calls to include the Sabah claim in the peace negotiations at the height of the standoff, the Philippines maintained that the issue is a matter of foreign policy and thus cannot be addressed in the Mindanao peace talks.
The government and the MILF are set to sign a final peace pact in March.
When the initial Framework Agreement was signed in October 2012, Najib was one of the guest of honors in Malacañang. – Rappler.com