KUALA LUMPUR: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte will not bring up his country’s longstanding claim to Sabah during his two-day visit to Malaysia.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday in Manila, before flying to Bangkok and later Kuala Lumpur, Duterte said he would focus on maritime security as well as economic cooperation.
“Not at this time because my visit is just one day, to focus on what is happening in the Malacca Strait. That area there, it’s a vital artery going to the Pacific Ocean,” Duterte was quoted as saying by the Manila Times.
This is sure to bring relief to Malaysians who are wary of Philippine leaders or politicians now and then claiming that Sabah belongs to them.
The Philippines’ claim to Sabah has been dormant for decades. Sabah was part of the Sultanate of Sulu and leased to the British North Borneo Co in 1878.
Sabah became a part of the Malaysian federation in 1963.
Duterte said he would be talking to Prime Minister Najib Razak on Malaysia’s role in peace efforts in the restive province of Mindanao, where rebels and government troops often clash.
“The Philippines recognises Malaysia’s role in pursuing just and lasting peace in Mindanao. In my talk with the prime minister, I shall seek Malaysia’s continued support for the peace process in southern Philippines.
“Of course, economic cooperation will be an important point of reference. I will discuss ways of intensifying two-way trade and investment, as well as support for the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area to spur Mindanao growth,” the Manila Times quoted Duterte as saying.
He said he would also seek Malaysia’s commitment to secure the seas from criminal and terrorist groups.
Duterte had earlier said he was amenable to joint military and police operations between the Philippines and Malaysia to combat the alarming rise of kidnappings and piracy.
He hoped his visit would move bilateral relations further forward as both leaders pursue common aspirations for their peoples and nations.