Malaysia slams bid to make Sabah the 13th PH state

MANILA, Philippines – Malaysia on Wednesday, January 31, slammed the proposal to make Sabah the Philippines' 13th federal state under a new Philippine Constitution. 

Sabah is a territory claimed by the Philippines but occupied by Malaysia. 

In a statement on Wednesday, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said, "The government of Malaysia reiterates its position that Malaysia does not recognize and will not entertain any claims by any party on Sabah."  

"Sabah is recognized by the United Nations (UN) and the international community as part of Malaysia since the formation of the Federation on September 16, 1963," Anifah added.

"Therefore, statements such as these will only expose the ignorance of history and international law of those who make them, as well as potentially harming the excellent bilateral relations which Malaysia and the Philippines currently enjoy," the Malaysian foreign minister also said. 

Anifah was reacting to statements made by former Senate president Aquilino Pimentel Jr, member of the consultative committee on Charter Change, in an interview with ANC on Tuesday, January 30. 

Pimentel reportedly said the Philippine government can turn Sabah into the 13th federal state under a new charter. 

"Eventually once we have asserted our sovereignty and rights over Sabah, we should include Sabah. Not only Sabah, but also Scarborough, Benham Rise, and Spratlys," Pimentel told ANC.

"There should be a way that is acceptable under international laws to assert our claim to Sabah," he also said. "I think we can defer it a little bit more but to say that we stop doing it is not in the context of my proposal."

President Rodrigo Duterte wants a shift to a federal form of government, which he views as a key to progress, even as sectors such as the Catholic Church warn against pursuing Charter Change in haste. –

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at