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May 30th
Home Columns JGL Eye Dismembering the Philippine Republic
Dismembering the Philippine Republic PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - JGL Eye
Thursday, 26 February 2009 06:14
Joseph G. Lariosa


Dateline, CHICAGO, Illinois (JGLi), Feb. 26, 2009 

W ith all the attention focused on the inclusion of Kalayaan Island Group and Scarborough Shaol near Palawan Islands in the Philippine map of the Baselines Bill, it appears that getting lost in the mix is the claim of the Sultan of Sulu over Sabah or North Borneo.


I just hope when the copy of the Philippine map that would be appended on the Baselines Law for submission to United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) is finalized, it will leave intact the same provision of the Philippine map when Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States.

According to a copy of that 1900 map obtained by this columnist, it has a fine print in the middle of the map that says: “The protocol of 1885 between England, Germany and Spain expressly recognized the sovereignty of Spain over places effectively occupied, as well as over those places NOT OCCUPIED (underscoring mine), of the Archipelago of Sulu (b) defined the limits of the Archipelago as extending from Mindanao to Borneo and Palawan (Paragua) and including Balabac and Cagayan-Jolo.

“(B)ut Spain (c) relinquished to Great Britain all claim of sovereignty derived from the past sovereignty of the Sultan of Sulu over territory of mainland of Borneo, and in addition over the islands of Balambangan, Banguey and Malawali, together with a water strip 3 marine leagues in width along the coast of the Bornean mainland.

“By a treaty signed Nov. 7, 1900, Spain relinquished to the United States all the title to islands of the Philippine Archipelago lying outside of the lines described in the Treaty of Peace of Dec. 10, 1898, and in particular to Cagayan – Jolo and Sibutu and their dependencies.”


B ecause Mrs. Arroyo has still 30 days within which to sign the Baselines Bill into law, she can still include this fine print provision before the May 2009 deadline of UNCLOS is due.

Otherwise, she can always veto it and specify her objection to Philippine Congress. She can include the provision before it is returned to Congress.

It should be a very easy decision for President Arroyo to make.

Last September 2008, Mrs. Arroyo signed Memorandum Circular 162, prohibiting any government agency from making statement over Sabah or non-recognition of Philippine title or historical and legal rights over it.

If she wants to see the 1900 Philippine map prepared by Bureau of Insular Affairs of the U.S. War Department for herself, she can just motor to the National Archives at Rizal Park, dust off the copy of the Philippine population census map and take a closer look at it.

She must remember very well that it was her father, the late President Diosdado Macapagal, who championed the Sabah claim. And if she abandons the claim to Sabah, her father will be turning in his grave.


Mrs. Arroyo was 15 years old in 1962 when her father broke off diplomatic relations with Malaysia as Malaysia included Sabah in its territory.

And should a war break out between the Philippines and Malaysia over Sabah, even if President Barack Obama does not like her, Mr. Obama, whether he likes it or not, has no choice but to support her. The United States has legal and moral obligation to defend the integrity of the Philippine territory as a party to the treaty. As witnesses and party, respectively, to the treaty, England, Malaysia’s colonial master, Germany and Spain are bound to comply with the treaty.

So, if I were Mrs. Arroyo, I will convene the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu and offer them her help to pursue their Sabah claim. The heirs were “orphaned” when their personal lawyer, the late President Marcos, was toppled from power. And they had no more influential backer to turn to.

After all, history and even the high court of North Borneo are on the side of the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu.

If she will turn her back on the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu, Mrs. Arroyo's critics can accuse her of treason. And fresh calls for her resignation or impeachment could not be far behind.


For now as she ponders on her next move, she can always veto the Baselines Bill and ask the Philippine Congress to insert an amendment that will ensure protection to the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu to pursue their claims.

If Mrs. Arroyo would sign it without the amendment, it would make the Malaysian government very happy because it would  weaken the hand of the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu to press their claim.

The last I heard the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu are still collecting their annual rental payment of 5,300 Malaysian ringgits (U.S.$1,446) from the Malaysian Embassy in Makati.

The heirs of the Sultan of Sulu are hesitant in entering into an agreement with Malaysian government because it is very hard to tell how much worth of money they are going to give up in case the property they are claiming is sitting on top of an oil deposit that can rival the oil find of the adjoining Sultanate of Brunei, one of the wealthiest oil producing countries in the world. (

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Last Updated on Saturday, 11 April 2009 16:25

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