Sabah arbitral ruling tackled anew

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo on Wednesday assured lawmakers that he will look into the legal implications of the recent decision of a French arbitral court to the country’s sovereignty claim over Sabah.

“We are aware of the award, well first because we have a standing claim to Sabah. That is there in the Constitution,” Manalo said when asked for his opinion over the arbitral ruling during the Commission on Appointments’ deliberation for his and other government officials’ ad interim appointment.

“Even before I came here, we had a cluster committee in the government precisely to analyze the legal implications of this award, especially vis-a-vis our claim,” he added.

However, the change in administration halted the purpose of the sub-committee group under the Cabinet cluster, composed of the DFA, Department of Justice, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of National Defense, and others, according to Manalo.

“But the plan is we will probably reconvene again under the new administration to study the implications because this is a legal private award,” he said.

The country’s top envoy stressed the need for a thorough study on the matter since the government of the Philippines has an existing claim over the disputed territory.

“It is important to also see — if we come out in either way — what would be the legal implications on our sovereignty claims,” Manalo said.

He told lawmakers that the subject is now being studied by the Office of the Solicitor General, which is now headed by former Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

Manalo made the statement after Senator Francis Tolentino inquired about the measures being made by his department about the decision of a French arbitration court.

Tolentino proposed anew to the DFA to form a group that will handle international and commercial arbitrations to focus on the Philippines’ claim to Sabah.

The senator is referring to the Paris Arbitration Court’s decision last month which required the government of Malaysia to pay $14.92 billion to the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu.

“The DFA should now seize the opportunity, we won, whether that was initiated by a private group is irrelevant, the implication is, we own Sabah,” Tolentino said.

“Around 750,000 Filipinos live there, stateless, without social security and health benefits, and not allowed to vote,” he added.

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