If the Philippines exerted much effort to assert its rights over the West Philippine Sea, why is it not doing the same for our rights over Sabah?
Sen. Robinhood “Robin” C. Padilla raised this question Tuesday in his first privilege speech, where he called on the government to support the Sultanate of Sulu in its efforts to receive $14.92 billion in payment from Malaysia.
“Sariwa pa sa atin ang makasaysayang desisyon ng Hague Permanent Court of Arbitration noong 2016 ukol sa West Philippine Sea. Binuhusan ng pansin at panahon ang usaping ito na nagbunga ng monumental na desisyon para sa kapakinabangan ng bansa. Kung kinaya nating maglunsad ng makasaysayang pagkilos sa katulad na national agenda, bakit tila po salat na salat sa pansin ang Sabah (The historic decision of the Hague Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2016 is still fresh in our minds. Our government exerted so much effort and time that led to this monumental decision. If we can do that for the West Philippine Sea, why are we seemingly quiet when it comes to Sabah)?” he said.
“Hindi natin maitatanggi: sensitibo ang paksa. Ngunit tulad ng lahat ng usapin na may malalim at mabigat na implikasyon sa ating Inang Bayan, hindi natin ito maaaring ipagsawalang bahala; hindi tayo maaaring manahimik na lamang (We cannot deny this is a sensitive issue. But like other issues with serious implications for our Motherland, we cannot ignore it. We cannot just keep quiet),” he added.
Padilla also stressed it is just right that the Philippines exert all efforts to help the Sultanate of Sulu and its heirs in the same way it helps any Filipino inside and outside the country.
He added it is the mandate of the State to help Filipino citizens, and that this should not be a cause of tension in Philippine-Malaysia relations.
“Isipin natin: kung malaki ang kapakinabangan ng bansa mula sa desisyong ito — kabilang na ang buwis na bubuhos mula sa parangal sa mga claimants — bakit wala tayong ginagawa para tulungan sila (Just think. If the country will gain from the decision, why are we not helping them)?” he said.
Padilla noted the French Arbitration Court had ordered Malaysia to pay $14.92 billion as rent for the territory.
In 135 years, he noted that the Sultanate had received payment from the UK from 1878 to 1962 and from Malaysia from 1963 to 2013. Malaysia stopped payments in 2013 following an incident in Lahad Datu.
The stoppage of payment prompted the Sulu Royal family to file a complaint before an international tribunal in 2018 – with the Malaysian government only attending thrice. “Patuloy ang pangbabalewala ng gobyerno ng Malaysia sa arbitrasyon (Malaysia’s government has virtually snubbed the arbitration proceedings),” said Padilla.
On the other hand, he said the claimants won their case before the Madrid High Court in May 2020. The French Arbitration Court affirmed the decision and ordered Malaysia to pay $14.9 billion to the heirs.
“Nakadidismaya na sa panig natin ay pareho rin ang tugon ng pamahalaan. Hindi ba malaking kapabayaan na hinahayaan nating umasa na lamang ang Sultanato sa tulong ng pribadong organisasyon para tustusan ang kanilang lehitimong laban (Is it not an act of negligence for our government to allow the Sultanate to seek help from a private organization for their legitimate fight)?” added Padilla.
“Isapuso at isip po natin: Bilang Pilipino at iisang bansa, isang tagumpay ang panalo sa internasyunal na hukuman ng mga tagapagmana ng Sultanato para sa kanilang karapatan sa Sabah (We must take this to heart. As Filipinos and as one country, we have earned an international victory before an international court when the Sultanate won their right over Sabah),” he said.
Padilla also noted President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in his State of the Nation Address last July had said that “I will not preside over any process that will abandon even one square inch of the territory of the Republic of the Philippines to any foreign power.”