THE Philippines is still asserting its claim over the disputed Sabah, a territory located south of the country that was declared part of Malaysia in 1963, Malacañang said Thursday, March 7.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo issued the statement after Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad said that the Philippines has "no claim" over Sabah.
Panelo, in an interview with Palace reporters, said Mahathir's remark was a "position of Malaysia" and not of the Philippines.
"The position of the President, as you said, meron tayong claim (we have claim). Eh totoo namang may claim tayo (It's true thay we have claim)," the Palace official said.
"That has been a bone of contention ever since, time pa yata ni President Marcos, 'yang Sabah issue (The Sabah issue has been a bone of contentions since the Marcos regime)," he added.
Sabah was yielded by the Sultan of Brunei to the Sultan of Sulu in 1658, but its residents voted to become part of the Federation of Malaysia in 1963.
In February 2013, some 200 armed men from Sulu laid siege to Lahad Datu, Sabah, resulting in firefights with Malaysia's security forces which led to the death of 100 people.
Duterte has persistently said that he would pursue the government's original position to invoke the Philippines's claim over Sabah, an oil-rich territory.
Duterte and Mahathir held a restricted meeting and an expanded bilateral meeting at Malacañan Palace on Thursday afternoon.
Panelo, however, said the Sabah issue would not be raised during the two leaders' meeting.
"It's not in the agenda (of Duterte and Mahathir's restricted and bilateral meetings), as far as I know," he said. (SunStar Philippines)