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Lawmakers ask PNoy to elevate PHL's Sabah claim to int'l court

Two party-list lawmakers on Thursday asked President Benigno Aquino III to elevate the Philippines' claim on Sabah to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) days after conflict erupted in the area between Malaysian authorities and followers of the Sulu sultanate. Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Teodoro Casiño filed House Resolution 3043 seeking international arbitration to resolve the conflicting claims over Sabah. “Since the Sultanate of Sulu is not a state and may not make a claim to the ICJ, the Philippines should do so. After all, the sultanate has been clear that they are not claiming Sabah for their own purposes but for the Philippines,” Casiño said in a statement. The ICJ is the United Nations' principal judicial organ tasked to settle legal disputes between the international organization's member-states. In the resolution, the lawmakers likewise asserted that the Philippines has a “solid” claim over Sabah. “Sabah clearly belongs to the sultanate of Sulu. The sultanate of Sulu belongs to the Republic of the Philippines. Our over 800,000 Muslim brothers and sisters in Sabah – Filipino citizens all – and the vast reserve of oil, mineral and other natural resources are part of the national interest and partrimony and should never be abandoned by the Philippine government,” the resolution read. The Philippine Congress is currently on recess and will resume sessions on June 3. The resolution must get the support of majority of the 287 House members for it to be adopted by the lower chamber. Sabah conflict Followers of the sultanate of Sulu are currently engaged in a battle with Malaysian authorities in Sabah, supposedly to assert the sultanate's claim on what it calls its ancestral territory. The Islamic sultanate, which is based in Mindanao, once controlled parts of Borneo, including the site of the stand-off. The sultanate's heirs have been receiving a nominal yearly compensation package from Malaysia under a long-standing agreement for possession of Sabah. Earlier in the day, Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III called for a unilateral ceasefire amid an ongoing assault by Malaysian security forces against his followers. Nearly 30 people have already been reported killed in the conflict in Sabah. President Aquino's spokespersons have repeatedly said that the Philippines is not abandoning its claims on Sabah. In 1962, the House unanimously passed a resolution asking the Philippine government, then under the leadership of President Diosdado Macapagal, to recover Sabah from Malaysia. — BM, GMA News