By Ida Lim
KUALA LUMPUR, March 2 – The Philippine government may take a Sulu rebel group’s ownership claim on Sabah to be adjudicated at world court even though the Borneo state in now part of Malaysia, Philippine media reported.
Leila de Lima, secretary in the Philippines’ Department of Justice (DOJ) was reported saying in Manila yesterday that the government had not ruled out taking the territorial dispute to the International Court of Justice in the Hague, but was studying carefully the case as it did not want to strain its friendship with Malaysia.
“That is among the options we are looking into. Of course there are international fora available so we’re considering that,” she was quoted as saying by the Philippine Star news portal.
She reportedly said “careful study” was needed and that the Philippine government’s considerations were not only limited to the legal issues of the claim.
“We have to consider standing policies of the administration, including foreign policies,” De Lima said, referring to her home country’s diplomatic ties with Malaysia.
Both countries are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) political and economic regional partnership.
De Lima told reporters in Manila that the DOJ would need more time to before forming a legal opinion on the Sultanate of Sulu’s purported ownership to Sabah.
“At first I thought I could finish it in a few days, but it’s a very complicated thing and we have to be very careful. There’s a lot of research materials and documents we need to read. I’m already halfway done with the memorandum,” she was reported saying.
Newswire Reuters has reported that Malaysia pays a token sum to the Sultanate of Sulu each year in an arrangement that stretches back to British colonial times.
The sultanate has claimed that the payment amounts to rental of Sabah, but Malaysia has argued that it is instead payment for the sultanate’s ceding of its rights over the land.
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