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FVR to PNoy: Meet with Sultan Kiram to address Sabah conflict

Former President Fidel V. Ramos on Wednesday advised President Benigno Aquino III to personally meet with Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III to help end the ongoing conflict in Sabah. In a television interview, Ramos said Aquino should have a one-on-one talk with Kiram to hear out the sultan’s grievances. “Kung may imbitasyon si Pangulong Aquino [from Kiram], e mag-usap na kayong dalawa nang masinsinan,” Ramos said. Ramos, as president from 1992 to 1998, had pushed for a financial settlement between Malaysia and the sultan's heirs that would include development funds for communities in Sulu, according to a timeline constructed by Palace official Manuel Quezon. Malaysia was eager for the arrangement, but no agreement was ever finalized, partly because of a failure to unite among the heirs, according to Amina Rasul, a descendant of an early sultan. It is still not clear what the Aquino position is on the Sabah claim, with Palace spokespersons saying the Justice Department is still studying the matter. Nominal compensation Kiram’s followers are currently engaged in a battle with Malaysian forces in Sabah, supposedly to assert the sultanate’s claim on Sabah and its proprietary rights. Nearly 30 people have already been reported killed due to the fighting. The Sulu sultanate once controlled parts of Borneo, including the site of the standoff. The sultanate's heirs have been receiving a nominal yearly compensation package from Malaysia under a long-standing agreement for possession of Sabah. In a televised statement last week before the eruption of violence on Friday, Aquino warned Kiram and his followers they could be committing crimes in Sabah with their actions. Ramos, however, said the Aquino government should not label Kiram’s group criminals to encourage them to return to the Philippines. Ramos also appealed to Kiram’s followers to heed the Philippine government’s appeal for them to go back to Sulu. — Andreo C. Calonzo/KBK, GMA News