Territorial Claims of Philippines

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  • Topic: Philippines, Spratly Islands, South China Sea
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  • Published : May 6, 2012
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TERRITORIAL CLAIMS BY THE PHILIPPINES

1. Sabah / North Borneo

A majority of Filipinos everywhere are wondering what this Sabah claim is all about. The Philippine history books, Malaysian's probably too, have not mentioned about the Philippines' stake on the northern part of the island of Borneo. On the other hand, the Malaysians maybe furious that there are a lot of attention now being focused to that part of the Malaysian federation to which they believe was theirs since the British handed the territory in 1963.

What we are trying here is to bring an insight to this dispute based on our researched of the various facts (or allegations) regarding this subject. As Filipino Americans, our main concern in bringing about this article is to tell that part of the history of the Philippines.

WHERE IS SABAH?

Sabah is the northern part of Borneo. It is bordered by Sarawak on its southwestern side and Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) to the south. Sabah has a coastline of approximately 800 to 900 miles and with the South China Sea in the west and north, the Sulu Sea in the northeast and the Celebes Sea in the east. Sabah's total land area is 76,115 sq km (29,388 sq miles). Sabah's population is about 2.5 million. It is 1,961 km from Hong Kong, 1,143 km from Manila, 1,495 km from Singapore, 1,678 km from Kuala Lumpur and 2,291 km from Taipei - note that it is nearer to Manila than Malaysia's capital of Kuala Lumpur.

North Borneo is much undeveloped and very rich in natural resources. One of the wealthiest oil producing countries is located in same island of Borneo, the tiny Sultanate of Brunei.

HISTORY OF TERRITORIAL CLAIMS

On 22 January 1878 the ruler of Sulu, His Majesty Sultan Jamalul A'Lam, signed a treaty, under what he leased the territory of North Borneo to Gustavus von Overbeck, an Austrian who was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire's consul-general in Hong Kong and to his British partner Alfred Dent, residing in London, as representatives of the British North Borneo Company, without giving away his sovereign rights, and for as long as they desire to use these coastlines. Von Overbeck procured the necessary firearms and also promised to pay to His Majesty Jamalul A'Lam, his heirs and successors the sum of 5,000 dollars a year payable every year.

On 22 April 1903 His Majesty Sultan Jamalul Kiram signed a document known "Confirmation of cession of certain islands", under what he leased additional islands in the neighbourhood of the mainland of North Borneo from the island of Banggi to Sibuku Bay to British North Borneo Company. The sum 5,000 dollars a year payable every year increased to 5,300 dollars a year payable every year.

The key word in the both agreements was "pajak", which has been translated by American, Dutch and Spanish linguists to mean "lease" or "arrendamiento"
In 1906 and in 1920, the United States formally reminded Great Britain that North Borneo did not belong to the Crown and was still part of the Sultanate of Sulu. However, the British did turn Sabah into a Crown Colony.

The Philippine Constitution of 1941 states that the national territory of the Philippines included, among other things, "all other areas which belong to the Philippines on the basis of historical rights or legal claims". Malaysia was federated in 16 September 1963. Even before Sabah was incorporated into Malaysia, the Philippines sent delegations to London reminding the British Crown that Sabah belonged to the Philippines.

The Sultanate of Sulu was granted the north-eastern part of the territory as a prize for helping the Sultan of Brunei against his enemies and from then on that part of Borneo was recognized as part of the Sultan of Sulu's sovereignty. 1878 lease was continued until the independence and formation of the Malaysian federation in 1963 together with Singapore, Sarawak and the states of Malaya. As of 2004, the...
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