Filipino politician Teodoro “Teddy” Locsin Jr came out to defend his tweet about Sabah not being a part of Malaysia and calling it “historically factual” after Malaysians put him on blast.
Locsin was tweeting in the context of Filipinos being repatriated from the East Malaysian state due to COVID-19. It soon drew the ire of Malaysians, including the Foreign Affairs Secretary’s Malaysian counterpart Hishamuddin Hussein, who slammed his statement as “irresponsible.”
“Sabah is not in Malaysia if you want to have anything to do with the Philippines,” Locsin originally tweeted. This led Hishamudin to summon the Philippines ambassador Charles C. Jose over on Monday to explain Locsin’s actions.
“This is an irresponsible statement that affects bilateral ties,” Hishamuddin, 58, tweeted in response. “The Malaysian Foreign Affairs Ministry will summon the Philippines Ambassador on Monday to explain. Sabah is, and will always be, part of Malaysia.”
Locsin then doubled down with the following statement: “You summoned our ambassador for a historically factual statement I made: that Malaysia tried to derail the Arbitral Award.”
The current Philippines Ambassador to Malaysia is a former foreign affairs spokesperson, who previously told reporters that Manila has not dropped its claim over the Northern Borneo state.
Meanwhile, netizens who caught up with the “Sabah” drama were not pleased.
“We, Sabahan do not want to be part of the Philippines! We are all Malaysians and will continue to be in Malaysia!” netizen @Jeffjiwamerdeka replied below.
“With all due respect, Mr. Locsin. Instead of focusing on our OWN problem (aka the pandemic), you just made an unofficial conflict against Malaysia. Embarrassing af,” @Personandme chimed in.
Sabah and the Philippines have been at odds over the territorial claim before, with the dispute dating back to 1878, when the Sultanate of Sulu (a group of islands in the Philippines) signed a contract that allowed the British administration to occupy Sabah in perpetuity, as long as it paid a regular sum of money.
In 1963, Sabah joined Malaya, Sarawak, and Singapore to become the Federation of Malaysia. Malaysia ceased paying the regular sum of RM5,000 (US$1200) to the heirs of the Sulu Sultanate since 2013, in an attempt to end foreign interference with Malaysia’s sovereignty.
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This article, Filipino politician defends ‘Sabah is not in Malaysia’ statement, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia’s leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!