Manila wants to work with Sabah on undocumented Filipinos

Chief Minister Shafie Apdal (right) speaking to Philippine ambassador to Malaysia Charles C Jose in Kota Kinabalu today.

KOTA KINABALU: The Philippines has no issue working with the Sabah government to solve the issue of undocumented Filipinos in the state despite Manila’s claim over Sabah, a Philippine envoy said today.

Philippine ambassador to Malaysia Charles C Jose told reporters that his embassy is focused on helping their countrymen in Sabah.

“Right now, the embassy is cooperating very closely with the Sabah government to address issues of mutual concern.

“So, although the claim (over Sabah) has not been dropped, it’s not being actively pursued either.

“So, for us in the embassy, we are more focused on helping the Filipinos here,” he said.

Speaking after meeting Chief Minister Shafie Apdal at his office today, Jose’s delegation expressed the embassy’s willingness to work with the state government to solve the issue of undocumented Filipinos together.

“We also gave some proposals on how we can address the matter,” he said.

On the proposed Philippine consulate in Sabah, Jose said the matter was still being discussed in Manila, adding the embassy will implement any decision their government takes.

Malaysia, especially Sabah, and the Filipinos in Sabah have been pushing for a consular office in Kota Kinabalu for some time now.

Manila’s claim over Sabah has been a long-standing one, with the more recent assertion taking place in January last year.

A member of the Philippine consultative committee on amending the 1987 Constitution, Aquilino Pimentel Jr, had said he would propose the inclusion of Sabah as a part of the Philippines.

Former chief minister Musa Aman rejected the claim and reiterated that Sabah does not recognise or acknowledge any claim by the Philippines or any other country over the state.

Meanwhile, the Philippines is very keen on the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) as this will bring security not only to the country but the region, Jose said.

He said his government doesn’t see the Sulu province’s decision to reject BARMM as problematic.

“There were two dates for the plebiscite, and Sulu is the only one that voted not to be part of BARMM. But a majority of the territories envisioned to be part of BARMM had voted in favour.

“So, we don’t see any problem arising from the exclusion of Sulu. They voted not to be a part, but it’s still being sorted out by the supreme court of the Philippines,” he said.