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KUALA LUMPUR, May 26 ― The incoming president of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte asserted today his administration is staking a fresh claim on Sabah, now a part of Malaysia.
Several Philippine dailies reported Duterte telling a news conference in Davao City that his administration recognises Sabah as Sulu sultanate territory that is being claimed by the Kiram clan.
“We are allowing proprietary heirs to talk [with Malaysia]. Since it is part of our claim, it will be there as our land,” he was quoted saying by the Manila Bulletin.
Duterte said his administration will assert the claim of the Sulu sultanate, whose leaders are now citizens of the Philippines.
“What has been the policy will always be the policy of the government especially those for the interest of the country. We have to stake our claim,” the Philippine Star quoted him saying.
The Kiram clan which claims to be descendents of the now defunct Sulu sultanate has been seeking to reclaim resource-rich Sabah for decades.
Some 200 armed men led by Agbimuddin Kiram sailed from South Philippines to Kampung Tanduo in Lahad Datu to stake their claim on Sabah in the name of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III in February 2013.
What followed was a month-long violent conflict with Malaysian security forces that ended in bloodshed on both sides; 70 filipino gunmen and 10 Malaysian security officers reportedly killed in the fighting.
Malaysia pays an annual cession payment of RM5,300, a rate that was negotiated in 1878 for the permanent ceding of Sabah territories.
The last sultan of Sulu officially recognised by the Philippine government was Mahakuttah Kiram, who died in 1986.
Sabah was formerly called North Borneo by the colonial British. Together with Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya, it formed the federation of Malaysia in 1963, and to which it remains a member today.