President Rodrigo Duterte and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad did not discuss Sabah, a thorny issue between Manila and Kuala Lumpur, during their meeting on Monday, Malacañang said Wednesday.
“It was not discussed,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a text to GMA News Online.
Duterte capped his three-day visit to Malaysia with a meeting with Mahathir at the premier’s office in Putrajaya, south of Kuala Lumpur, a day after they watched the victorious campaign of Filipino ring icon and Senator Manny Pacquiao for the WBA welterweight belt in the capital.
After the one-hour meeting, Malacañang and Mahathir’s office released separate statements that said both leaders reaffirmed the close ties shared by the Philippines and Malaysia.
The statements added Duterte and Mahathir discussed defense and security cooperation as well as issues that threaten the region such as terrorism and violent extremism, transnational crime, illegal drug trade, and piracy in the high seas.
Malaysia also expressed its support towards peace and development in Mindanao.
Prior to the meeting, Roque had already said the Sabah claim would not be on the agenda.
Before assuming office in June 2016, Duterte said he would pursue the Philippines’ claim to Sabah.
Sabah, which is rich in minerals and gas deposits, was annexed to Malaysia when it gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1963.
Relations between Manila and Kuala Lumpur endured even after the Philippines, under President Diosdado Macapagal, asserted its claim to Sabah in the 1960s.
In 2013, the followers of the Sultanate of Sulu engaged in a deadly standoff 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. — BM, GMA News