KOTA KINABALU: Malaysia’s stand has always been consistent that it will not entertain or recognise any form of claim by any foreign power over Sabah.
In reiterating this, Deputy Foreign Minister Kamarudin Jaaffar said the claim on Sabah has always been used as a tool by politicians in the Philippines for their own political gain, particularly nearing election time in that country.
“The issue is frequently used as political capital, especially by some politicians from the Luzon Islands to stoke patriotism in their effort to rally support in southern Philippines but in reality it is only cosmetic.
“We consider this political game as an action that is wasteful and irresponsible,” he said during a debate in the Dewan Rakyat today over the proposal to include the Sabah map in the Philippine passport.
He added the action was insensitive, inconsiderate, not conducive to good relations between Malaysia and the republic and it also went against the spirit of camaraderie among Asean members.
“The ministry will continue discussions with other related ministries and agencies and the Sabah government before deciding on the options that will be implemented,” Kamaruddin said.
The debate was allowed after Parliament approved an emergency motion by Batu Sapi MP Liew Vui Keong earlier.
Kamarudin said it was widely known that the claim on Sabah by the Philippines was baseless.
“Sabah is a state in the Malaysian Federation. Any claim by any foreign country on Sabah based on history or any other excuse is irrelevant and not usable,” he said.
The Philippine proposal, approved by its house foreign affairs committee last week, calls for the Philippine map, showing a 200-mile exclusive economic zone and Sabah, to be printed on Philippine passports.
Kamarudin also said the proposal to include the Sabah map in the Philippine passport was not Manila’s official stand, adding the proposal was actually done by the committee on foreign affairs of the Philippine House of Representatives.
He said the committee had carried out a process to create a substitute bill to amend, replace or abolish the Republic Act No. 8329, also known as the Philippine Passport Act 1996.
He added the proposed amendment passed at the committee level, among others, involved items related to the Philippine Passport Act , issuance of passports in every Philippine region and expiration of passports for Filipino senior citizens.
“Based on information, one of the committee members, Rufus B Rodriguez from Cagayan de Oro had suggested the substitute bill to include the maritime territories being claimed by the Philippines in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea for the country) and Sabah in their passport.
“At the moment, the proposed bill that we are debating today has yet to be categorised as a House Bill.”
Kamarudin explained that the proposed bill still needed to go through multiple committees such as the House Committee on Appropriation and House Committee on Rules before being tabled for the second and third reading at the House of Representatives.
The bill will then be referred to the Senate, one of two chambers in the Philippine Congress, the other being the House of Representatives.
“Only after the bill is approved by Congress and goes through several legislative levels and reviews, will it be submitted to the Philippine president for approval,” he said.
Notwithstanding this, he stressed that Malaysia would be monitoring closely the developments on the proposed bill as well as considering options on how to respond.
Kamarudin said every time a statement on the Sabah claim surfaced, the foreign ministry acted immediately to reject it, whether through an objection notice, media statement or summoning the Philippine envoy.
Kamarudin, meanwhile, also urged leaders at state and federal levels not to worsen the situation by using it for their political interest.