Marcos Fact Checks

FACT CHECK: Reclaiming Sabah not the aim of Marcos’ Malaysia trip

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FACT CHECK: Reclaiming Sabah not the aim of Marcos’ Malaysia trip
Marcos said the issue of Sabah was mentioned during the state visit, but was not discussed in great detail

Claim: President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. went to Malaysia to take back Sabah, which is under Malaysia’s jurisdiction but claimed by the Philippines.

Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The claim was made in the title of a YouTube video posted on July 28 which has 27,000 views, 1,700 likes, and 169 comments as of writing. The channel that posted the video has 741,000 subscribers and has been fact-checked by Rappler multiple times.


(Finally! President Marcos visits Malaysia, will [he] reclaim Sabah? PBBM and the King of Malaysia have had a conversation!)

The bottom line: Marcos has said that his three-day state visit aims to strengthen the Philippines’ ties with Malaysia. According to the President, the territorial dispute over Sabah was raised, but not discussed at length.

The YouTube video did not provide any proof to support its claim. Instead, it showed clips of Marcos’ remarks at the state banquet in Kuala Lumpur on July 26. The transcript of Marcos’ speech shows no mention of Sabah. 

Why Marcos is in Malaysia: Following his second State of the Nation Address, Marcos went to Malaysia at the invitation of King Al-Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, Malaysia’s head of state.

Marcos said his visit will prioritize discussions on food security, digital economy, tourism, and people-to-people exchanges. He expressed interest in exploring potential areas of collaboration, such as the halal industry and Islamic banking. Marcos also said it is likely that the controversial Maharlika Investment Fund, which he recently signed into law, will be discussed. 

Briefly mentioned: Speaking to Philippine media, Marcos said the Sabah issue was mentioned during his state visit, but not extensively discussed.

“Nababanggit, lagi namang nababanggit ‘yun eh. Hindi maiiwasan, mayroon naman talaga tayong outstanding claim, hindi natin binabawi, so but… I mean it’s clear to all the parties involved na hindi naman puwedeng madedecide ‘yan ngayon,” Marcos said.

(It’s always being mentioned, it can’t be avoided, we do have an outstanding claim, we’re not withdrawing it, but… I mean, it’s clear to all the parties involved that it can’t be decided right now.)

Marcos added that both countries agreed to focus on other “solvable” issues for now.

Territorial claim: Both countries have historical and legal contentions over the ownership of Sabah, which is located on the northern part of the island of Borneo. The territorial dispute is based on a land lease agreement in 1878 between the Sultanate of Sulu and the British North Borneo Chartered Co. 

Malaysia interprets the document to mean that the Sultan of Sulu sold Sabah to the British, who ruled the area now known as Malaysia. Manila, however, insists that Sabah was merely on lease.

Operation ‘Merdeka’: Marcos’ father, the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, also tried to pursue the Sabah claim. In 1968, the Philippine government planned a secret military operation to retake Sabah. The foiled plot saw the killing of at least 23 Muslim trainees on Corregidor Island in what has since been known as the Jabidah massacre. – Jezreel Ines/

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