OSG forms task force to study Sabah issue

The Office of Solicitor General (OSG) has formed a special task force to study the implications of the arbitral award in favor of the heirs of the sultanate of Sulu.

Solicitor General (SolGen) Menardo Guevarra said he has constituted a special task force within the OSG to study any wider implications of the arbitral award in favor of the heirs of the sultanate of Sulu.

“We’ve begun collating reference materials for our study, but this task will require a lot of manhours to complete,” the SolGen said.

Earlier, Guevarra, said his office is carefully studying the legal and constitutional implications of the $14.92 billion award from a French arbitration court to compensate the descendants of the last Sulu Sultan.

This was the response of Guevarra when asked if his office will take part in the rapidly developing issue on the Sultanate claims which already rocked Malaysia after lawyers of the Sulu royal family seized $2 billion worth of overseas assets of state oil company Petronas on the strength of the international tribunal’s ruling.

“The Office of the Solicitor General, on its own, is carefully studying the legal and constitutional implications, if any, of the arbitral award in favor of the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu,” he said.

Malacañang, on the other hand, has distanced itself from the $14.9-billion claims of the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu from the Malaysian government by saying it is not an issue of national sovereignty for now.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Press Secretary Beatrix “Trixie” Cruz-Angeles described the case as a private matter between the heirs and Malaysia.

“Therefore, it is not an issue of sovereignty or of territory at the moment,” Angeles said.

The Palace official said she will seek policy direction from President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on how the government will subsequently treat the Sabah issue under his administration.

“The President’s articulation of his (State of the Nation Address) statement about not giving up a square inch of territory will have to be reduced into writing and into specifics. After which, we will announce this to you if they are in any way related to the Sabah claim. At the moment, there is no articulation. So we will have to wait,” Angeles said.

Marcos’s allusion in his SoNA to not give up even a “square inch” of territory had been widely viewed as in the context of the Philippines’s continuing determination to resist Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea.

During the Duterte administration, the government said it will continue to pursue the country’s historic claim over Sabah.

Angeles commented on Sabah after a French arbitration court ordered Malaysia last month to pay compensation to the heirs of Sulu.

The issue stemmed out from the agreement made by the Sultan of Sulu with a British trading company in 1878 for the exploitation of resources in Sabah in Borneo, which is currently under Malaysian control.

Malaysia took over the regular payment to the heirs of Sabah after its independence from British rule. But in 2013, it decided to stop the payments altogether.

The Malaysian government offered to resume the payments in 2019, but it was rejected by the heirs, who wanted to renegotiate the deal after fuel and oil resources were discovered in Sabah.

Initially, the heirs sought arbitration in Spain, but it was later transferred to French courts instead.

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