Malacañang said the territorial dispute between the Philippines and Malaysia over Sabah should not affect the relationship between the two Southeast Asian countries.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the statement after Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said they will summon Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Charles Jose to explain Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.’s statement that Sabah belongs to the Philippines.
In his Thursday presser, Roque recognized that both countries have conflicting claims over Sabah but said this should not define the Philippine-Malaysia ties.
“Sa mula’t mula po, kinikilala natin na meron tayong (From the very beginning we recognize that we have) conflicting claim of territory over Sabah… but we recognize that this matter should not affect our ongoing bilateral ties with Malaysia,” he said.
“It has not affected it in recent years and we will continue to have healthy bilateral relations with Malaysia despite the issue of Sabah,” he added.
He said the Philippines will continue building friendly ties with Malaysia despite the issue on Sabah.
“This unresolved territorial dispute has been dormant. It has not affected our bilateral relations and I think we will maintain, we will definitely maintain these friendly bilateral relations in spite and despite this unresolved dispute,” he said.
According to Roque, like with Malaysia, the Philippines will continue to establish ties with other countries that it has territorial disputes with even though these disputes are far from being resolved.
“There will be no resolution in these territorial disputes in the near future but we will proceed with our bilateral relations with other countries with whom we have territorial disputes,” he said.
“Hindi po yan hadlang sa patuloy na pakikisama natin doon sa mga bansang meron tayong (That should not hinder us from building ties with countries whom we have) ongoing territorial disputes [with],” he added.
The Philippines has a long-standing claim over the northern part of Borneo since the term of President Diosdado Macapagal due to assertions that the former Sultan of Sulu was gifted with the land in exchange for helping the Sultan of Brunei defeat his adversaries.
Malaysia, who currently has control over the land, however, insists that Sabah was ceded to them as Spain transferred part of the property of the Sultanate of Sulu to the British in the 1880s.