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Aquino eyes Sabah gab

With KL,  rules-based  approach  may end  conflict Baguio City — President Benigno Aquino III says the Philippines is open to negotiating with Malaysia and embarking on a rules-based approach to resolve the Sabah claim similar to the case filed by Manila against Beijing to address the territorial dispute over the Panatag Shoal. Speaking before the graduating class of the Philippine Military Academy in Fort del Pilar Sunday, Mr. Aquino said regardless of whether the claims of the followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III were legitimate, an armed incursion into Sabah was not the way to resolve the dispute. “Let us look at the situation in the West Philippine Sea as an example. Is it not true that, like in the issue of Sabah, we continue to hold firm to principles founded on a rules-based approach, towards a peaceful resolution of the dispute over Bajo de Masinloc? If we were to resort to saber-rattling and violence, the problem would only grow bigger, and in all likelihood, would only carry over to the next generations,” the President said. “We all know that for every action, there is a resultant reaction, and that there are problems that cannot be solved hastily—problems that will only beget more problems if we try to solve them through force or recklessness. What is needed here is a careful and truthful evaluation of the facts, and a subsequent negotiation along those lines, to produce the right solution,” he added. The President acknowledged that while he will not give up the country’s claim on Sabah, neither will Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. “We already know how complicated this issue is: could any Malaysian Prime Minister so easily agree to let go of a land that, for so long, has been subject to their laws? Is there a Philippine President who would, without a second thought, give up our claim?” Mr. Aquino even cited the Bangsamoro framework agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as example of how “earnest dialogue is more effective, more productive, and more beneficial to all.” “Forbearance and reason are not equivalent to cowardice—on the contrary, these are the measures of true courage and resolve, because through these we are able to consider the well-being of not only those living in the here and now, but especially those in the years to come,” the President said. Mr. Aquino repeated allegations that the there were collaborators and financiers who helped the Kirams send a 235-member contingent to Sabah. Without citing specifics or offering evidence, the President said the collaborators “gathered the funds needed to rent boats, to buy gasoline and food, guns and bullets” for the group led by the sultan’s brother, Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram. Mr. Aquino accused the still unnamed “masterminds” and collaborators of selfishly goading the Kirams into going to Sabah. The sultanate of Sulu said Sunday they would ask the US government to arbitrate with the Malaysians to help resolve the Sabah issue. “We are asking President Barack Obama to mediate in the peaceful resolution of our claim in Sabah with Malaysia,” Sultanate of Sulu Spokesman Abraham Idjirani said. He said the US intercession to the problem would be the best option to resolve the problem in the affirmative way. “We believe US intervention will eventually enlighten Malaysia that the Sultanate of Sulu is the rightful owner of Sabah.” Idjirani said. The sultanate also expressed optimism that the international community will intervene to peacefully resolve the issue of its historical and legal claim over Sabah. Idjirani added that the sultanate was hopeful that Brunei, the country that gifted Sabah to the heirs of the Sultanate, would intercede to resolve once and for all the legitimacy of the claim. He added that Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah had reportedly conveyed a message to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak through Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman. Idjirani could not say what the contents of the message were, however. “What we know, based on reliable sources in Washington, is that Bolkiah has conveyed a message to Prime Minister Razak pertaining to the Sabah issue,” Idjirani said. Earlier, Idjirani announced that an unidentified neutral country has agreed to act as a go-between to help convince the Malaysian government to end the conflict in Sabah, which has already taken more than 60 lives. With Francisco Tuyay
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