“The position of the President is that we do have a claim. This has been a bone of contention ever since the time of President Ferdinand Marcos,” said Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo, in a mix of Filipino and English.
President Rodrigo Duterte was to meet Mahathir in the Palace Thursday afternoon, but Panelo said Sabah was not on the agenda.
READ: Sabah possible on the agenda during Mahathir-Duterte meet
When he was running for office, Duterte said he would pursue the country’s claim to Sabah.
In an interview with the ANC news channel, Mahathir said, “As far as we’re concerned, there is no claim.”
Mahathir, the world’s oldest leader at age 93, arrived at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City at 7:40 p.m. on Wednesday.
The Philippines stakes its claim to Sabah by citing an 1878 land lease agreement between the Sultanate of Sulu and the British North Borneo Chartered Co.
The Philippines maintains that the agreement was only for leasing the land and did not render Sabah part of Malaysia when it was formed into a federation in 1963.
Malaysia is also among claimants to part of the South China Sea, along with the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan, contending with China’s assertion of ownership over nearly all the waters.
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