PETALING JAYA: Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr today said “no country can tell another what it can and cannot say” in an apparent reaction to a chiding from his Malaysian counterpart.
Foreign Affairs Minister Hishammuddin Hussein yesterday said Locsin’s tweet that Sabah is not in Malaysia was “irresponsible” and would affect bilateral ties, stressing that “Sabah is, and will always be, part of Malaysia”.
Reasserting the Philippines’ claim to Sabah as “rightfully its own” in a series of tweets today, Locsin pointed out that he did not censor China on their grievances about a 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague which had dismissed China’s claim to most of South China Sea.
“No country can tell another what it can and cannot say about what the latter regards as rightfully its own,” Locsin said on his Twitter account today.
“I don’t insist China say only what we want to hear about the Arbitral Award. It is free to say what it wants while we say and do what needs doing. That holds for Sabah.
“We have and continue to assert our rights in the Spratlys/WPS (West Philippine Sea). I am doing that with regard to Sabah,” he added.
On Monday, the US embassy in Manila said on Twitter that hygiene kits given by a US aid agency were “for use by returning Filipino repatriates from Sabah, Malaysia”.
In response, Locsin tweeted that “Sabah is not in Malaysia if you want to have anything to do with the Philippines”.
Apart from saying that the statement would affect bilateral ties, Hishammuddin also said Wisma Putra will summon the Philippine ambassador on Monday to explain Locsin’s statement.
In retaliation, Locsin today said he would summon Malaysia’s ambassador to Manila.
Locsin also said he would be speaking with the US State Department “soon” about the US embassy in Manila.
Locsin last year reaffirmed Manila’s claim over Sabah at a congressional budget briefing, stating that the five-decade claim was initiated during the administration of the late President Diosdado Macapagal (in the early 1960s). He said Macapagal and his father, Teodoro Locsin Sr, had pursued the claim.
On its part, Malaysia has said it does not recognise and will never entertain any claim by any party to Sabah.