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Philippine official summons Malaysian envoy over Sabah Twitter spat

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MANILA (The Philippine Star) —  The Philippines' top diplomat will summon the Malaysian envoy following a Twitter spat over Sabah. 

Earlier this week, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. tweeted that "Sabah is not in Malaysia" when the U.S. Embassy posted about donations for Filipino repatriates coming from "Sabah, Malaysia."

 

This prompted Malaysian Foreign Affairs Minister Hishammuddin Hussein to call Locsin's tweet "irresponsible."

 

 "[The Malaysia Ministry of Foreign Affairs  will summon the Philippines Ambassador on Monday to explain. Sabah is, and will always be, part of Malaysia," Hussein tweeted Wednesday night.

 

 In response to his Malaysian counterpart, Locsin said he will also summon the Malaysian ambassador.

 

"No country can tell another what it can and cannot say about what the latter regards as rightfully its own," Locsin tweeted Thursday morning.

 

The DFA chief's remarks was in response to former Sen. JV Ejercito, who said he supports Locsin's statement on Sabah, further claiming that "Sabah historically belongs to the Philippines.

 

"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," Locsin added.

 

Locsin was referring to the July 2016 arbitral ruling that sided with the Philippines and invalidated China's nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea. Beijing, however, continues to reject the ruling and insists that it has indisputable sovereignty over the region.

 

The sultanate of Sulu used to rule over parts of southern Philippines and Sabah. In 1963, the British government transferred Sabah to the Federation of Malaysia but the Philippine government insists that it was only leased, not ceded, to the North British Co.

 

In his first official trip to Malaysia in 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte and then Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak agreed to set aside the decades-long disagreement on Sabah to boost cooperation against security threats along their shared maritime borders.

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