The Claims Over Sabah

I believe that our country, the Philippines, really owns Sabah and here is the timeline to trace the history of this issue.


Spain signed peace treaties with the strongest sultanates, Sulu and Maguindanao, recognizing their de facto independence.


Sultan of Sulu became sovereign ruler of most of North Borneo by virtue of a cession from the Sultan of Brunei whom he had helped in suppressing a rebellion.

There is no document stating the grant of North Borneo from Sultan of Brunei to Sultan of Sulu, but it is accepted by all sides.

March 17, 1824

Treaty of London signed by the Netherlands and Great Britain

Allocates certain territories in the Malay archipelago to the United Kingdom and the Netherlands (Dutch East Indies)

September 23, 1836

Treaty of Peace and Commerce between Spain and Sulu, signed in Sulu

Granting Spanish protection of sultanate, mutual defense, and safe passage for Spanish and Joloan ships between ports of Manila, Zamboanga, and Jolo.[4]

Ortiz: Spain did not claim sovereignty over Sulu, but merely offered “the protection of Her Government and the aid of fleets and soldiers for wars…”


Muda Hassim, uncle of the Sultan of Sulu,  publicly announced as successor to the Sultanate of Sulu with the title of Sultan Muda: he was also the leader of the “English party,”(today the term for Crown Prince is Raja Muda)

The British Government appoints James Brooke as a confidential agent in Borneo.

The British Government extends help to Sultan Muda to deal with piracy and settle the Government of Borneo.

April 1846

Sir James Brooke receives intelligence that the Sultan of Sulu ordered the murder of Muda Hassim, and some thirteen Rajas and many of their followers; Muda Hassim kills himself because he found that resistance is useless.

July 19, 1846

Admiral Thomas Cochrane, Commander-in-chief of East Indies and China Station of the Royal Navy, issued a Proclamation to cease hostilities (“piracy,” crackdown versus pro-British faction) if the Sultan of Sulu would govern “lawfully” and respect his engagements with the British Government

If the Sultan persisted, the Admiral proclaimed that the squadron would burn down the capital of the sultanate.

May 7, 1847

James Brooke is instructed by the British Government to conclude a treaty with the Sultan of Brunei

British occupation of Labuan is confirmed and Sultan concedes that no territorial cession of any portion of his country should ever be made to any foreign power without the sanction of Great Britain.

May 29, 1849

Convention of Commerce between Britain and the Sultanate of Sulu

Sultan of Sulu will not cede any territory without the consent of the British.

April 30, 1851

Treaty signed with Spain by the Sultan of Sulu, Mohammed Pulalun

The Sultanate of Sulu was incorporated into the Spanish Monarchy.
January 17, 1867

Earl of Derby to Lord Odo Russel:

that, whatever Treaty rights Spain may have had to the sovereignty of Sulu and its dependencies, those rights must be considered as having lapsed owing to the complete failure of Spain to attain a de facto control over the territory claimed.

May 30, 1877

Protocol of Sulu signed between Spain, Germany, and Great Britain, providing free movement of ships engaged in commerce and direct trading in the Sulu Archipelago

British Ambassadors in Madrid and Berlin were instructed that the protocol implies recognition of Spanish claims over Sulu or its dependencies.

At this point the following western countries have possessions in Southeast Asia:

1. British = Singapore, Malaya, Brunei, Sarawak, and North Borneo

2. Germany = Papua New Guinea

3. Netherlands = Indonesia

4. Spain = Philippines, Guam, Marshall Islands, Caroline Islands

5. France = Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia (French IndoChina)

December 1877

Expeditions of Alfred Dent to control north part of Borneo began

Alfred Dent, member of the commercial house of Dent Brothers and Co. of London.

January 22, 1878

Sir Alfred Dent obtains sovereign control over the northern part of Borneo for 5,300 ringgit ($5,000) from the Sultans of Brunei and Sulu.

Concessions would later be confirmed by Her Majesty’s Royal Charter in November, 1881 granted to the British North Borneo Co.

The territory of the Sultan of Sulu over the island of Borneo.

November 1, 1881

Queen Victoria grants Charter of Incorporation to the British North Borneo Company

British North Borneo Company now does actually exist “as a Territorial Power” and not “as a Trading Company”

November 16, 1881

Spaniards protest granting of Royal Charter

By virtue of treaties of capitulation of 1836, 1851, and 1878, Spain exercised sovereignty over Sulu and its dependencies including North Borneo; Sultan of Sulu had no right to enter into any treaties or make any cessions whatsoever [24]

January 7, 1882

British Foreign Minister Earl Granville’s letter says Crown assumes no dominion or sovereignty over the territories occupied by the Company, nor does it purport to grant to the Company any powers of Government thereover.

March 7, 1885

Spanish claims to Borneo abandoned by Protocol of Sulu entered into by England, Germany and Spain

Spanish supremacy over the Sulu Archipelago was recognised on condition of their abandoning all claim to the portions of Northern Borneo which are now included in the British North Borneo Company’s concessions.

May 12, 1888

While civil war was ongoing in Sulu.

An agreement between the British North Borneo Company and Great Britain; British Government admits the North Borneo Company derived its rights and powers to govern the territory.

June 14, 1888

British Protectorate established over Sarawak.

September 17, 1888

British Protectorate established over Brunei.

December 10, 1898

Treaty of Paris

Spain cedes the Philippine Islands to the United States of America. The treaty lines did not include North Borneo (Sabah).[31]


President Aguinaldo invites the Sultan of Sulu to join the newly-established First Republic of the Philippines.

Malolos Congress appointed representatives for Jolo: Benito Legarda and Victor Papa.

August 20, 1899

Kiram-Bates Treaty

Treaty acknowledged the “sovereignty of the United States over Jolo and its dependencies”

April 28, 1950

House of Representatives approved Concurrent Resolution No. 42 expressing the “sense of the Congress of the Philippines that North Borneo belongs to the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu and the ultimate sovereignty of the Republic of the Philippines and authorizing the President (Elpidio Quirino) to conduct negotiations for the restoration of such ownership and sovereign jurisdiction over said territory.” The Senate did not approve the Resolution.

Reps. Macapagal (Pampanga), Rasul (Mindanao and Sulu), Escarreal (Samar), Cases (La Union), Tizon (Samar), Tolentino (Manila), and Lacson (Manila) author the Resolution.

September 4, 1950

Philippines advised British Government that a dispute regarding ownership and sovereignty over North Borneo existed between the two countries.

August 30, 1955

Vice President Carlos P. Garcia and the British Ambassador to Manila signed an agreement that provided for the employment and settlement of 5,000 skilled and unskilled Filipino agriculturists and miners in North Borneo

Agreement not implemented as North Borneo employers feared multiple suits arising from claims of Filipino laborers: they had found a sizable number of Indonesians willing to work on a temporary basis.

January 1957

Governor of North Borneo visits Manila to implement the 1955 labor treaty.

500-man delegation of Filipino Muslims present resolution to President Ramon Magsaysay calling for direct negotiations with the British to return North Borneo to the Philippines. Magsaysay did not act on the resolution.

British response: United Kingdom High Commissioner for Southeast Asia said it would not take seriously the demands of Moros in the Philippines for certain areas of North Borneo.

July 31, 1957

The Federation of Malaya Act was signed.

The Federation of Malaya was established as a sovereign country within the British Commonwealth.

November 25, 1957

Muhammad Esmail Kiram, Sultan of Sulu, issued a proclamation declaring the termination of the Overbeck and Dent lease, effective January 22, 1958.

“A syndicate headed by Nicasio Osmeña acting as attorney-in-fact for the heirs, attempted without success to negotiate with the British Foreign Office for a lump sum payment of $15 million in full settlement of the lease agreement.”

August 31, 1957

Peninsular Malaya granted independence by Britain.

May 27, 1961

Inclusion of North Borneo (Sabah) in the concept of Malaysia after the UK talks

It was during this time when then President Diosdado Macapagal was forced to initiate the filing of the Philippine claim in North Borneo (Sabah) as it was being considered as a member of the proposed concept of Malaysia broached by Prime Minister Tengku Abduk Rahman in Singapore.

February 5, 1962

Attorneys of the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu wrote to the Department of Foreign Affairs with the desire to have the territory included as part of the national territory of the Republic of the Philippines;

Ortiz: J.C. Orendain, acting as counsel for the heirs – regain proprietary rights to North Borneo and that sovereignty be turned over to the Philippine Republic.

April 24, 1962

Heirs of the Sultan of Sulu ceded sovereignty rights over Sabah to the Philippine Government.

Resolution No. 321 unanimously adopted by House of Representatives, urging President Macapagal to take the necessary steps for the recovery of North Borneo (Sabah).

Filed by Rep. Godofredo Ramos (Aklan) the resolution read: “It is the sense of the House of Representatives that the claim to North Borneo is legal and valid.”

September 11, 1962

President Diosdado Macapagal issues special authorization in favor of Vice President Emmanuel Pelaez to formally accept, on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines, the cession or transfer of sovereignty over the territory of North Borneo by Sultan Mohammad Esmail Kiram, Sultan of Sulu.

September 12, 1962

Heirs of the Sultan of Sulu cede all rights, proprietary, title, dominion and sovereignty to the Republic of the Philippines

Secretary of Foreign Affairs sends Note to British Ambassador asserting that the Philippine claim subsists despite the London agreements including North Borneo in the Federation of Malaysia.

September 27, 1962

Vice-President Emmanuel Pelaez addresses the United Nations General Assembly

We stand on what we consider to be valid legal and historical grounds. Our claim has been put forward with sincere assurance of our desire that the issue be settled by peaceful means, and without prejudice to the exercise of the right of self-determination by the inhabitants of North Borneo, preferably under United Nations auspices.

June 7 – 11, 1963

Discussion between the foreign affairs secretaries of the Federation of Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

The meeting resulted in the drafting of the Manila Accord.[89]

July 9, 1963

Malaysia Agreement was signed.

Article I provided for the creation of the Federation of Malaysia which included the colonies of Singapore, North Borneo, and Sarawak.

July 30 – August 5, 1963

MAPHILINDO (Malaya, Philippines, Indonesia) is formed, a loose consultative body among the three countries.

July 31, 1963

Manila Accord is signed

Indonesia, the Federation of Malaya, and the Philippines sign a policy statement agreeing to peacefully resolve the issue on North Borneo.

July 14-16, 2004

JCBC discusses Filipino workers in Sabah and proposes Philippines set up a consulate in Sabah.

The Malaysian side requested the Philippine side to establish a Consulate in Sabah as soon as possible. The Philippine side reiterated the government’s commitment on this matter.[156]

September 14, 2004

Executive Order No. 357 The Bipartisan Executive-Legislative Advisory Council on the Sabah Issues was abolished and its functions transferred to DFA

September 2005

Group calling itself the “Royal Sultanate of Sulu Archipelago’s Supreme Council” warned Malaysian government not to entertain claims forwarded to it by so-called Sultan Rodinood Julaspi Kiram regarding the resolution of the North Borneo territorial issue.

April 27-28 2006

Closing Statement of Malaysian Foreign Minister Dato’ Seri Syed Hamid Albar at the 6th Malaysia-PH Joint Commission Meeting

Malaysian Foreign Minister Dato’ Seri Syed Hamid Albar, in his closing statement during the 6th Malaysia-PH Joint Commission Meeting  in Kuala Lumpur, asked Secretary Alberto G. Romulo to jointly “find ways to bring a final conclusion to the long due bilateral matters, namely the displaced people in Sabah and the setting up of the Philippine Consulate General in Kota Kinabalu.”[157]

June 3,  2006

Mohammad Fuad Abdulla Kiram I was proclaimed 35th Sultan of the Royal Hashimite Sultanate of Sulu and Sabah with a backing of the Moro National Liberation Front.

May 2007

Jamalul Kiram III runs unsuccessfully for Senator under Partido Demokratikong Sosyalista ng Pilipinas (PDSP), receiving over two million votes. PDSP coalesces with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Lakas-CMD and KAMPI to form TEAM Unity. Administration coalition is crushed in the polls with only two of its bets winning, the other 10 seats are won by the opposition.

14th Congress

HB 1202[158]

Introduced by Hon. Antonio V. Cuenco

May 29, 2008

Nur Misuari called for the revival of North Borneo claim in Second Mindanao Leadership Summit attended by MNLF combatants

Strong reaction from Datuk Seri Panglima Yong Teck Lee, President of the Sabah Progressive Party urging Malaysia’s Federal Government to bring in military, set up consulates in Mindanao and invite PHL to set up consulate in Sabah

July 9, 2008

“Sultanate of Sulu” reportedly starts issuing birth certificates to Filipinos in Sabah

July 27, 2008

Datu Omar negotiator of Mohammad Jamal Al Alam heirs was quoted “obtained signatures of nine heirs relinquishing claims to Sabah” but these are denied by claimants

Uka Ulama claimed that nobody has the power to drop the claim because there is no more Sultan who reigns and rules over the territory.

August 10, 2008

Sulu provincial government tells Malaysia to Increase annual payment to Jamalul Kiram III to $500M.

August 20, 2008

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issues Memorandum Circular No. 162 or “Guidelines on matters pertaining to North Borneo (Sabah)”

No recognition of a foreign state’s sovereignty over North Borneo; any official activity relating to North Borneo carried out only with the clearance of or after consultations with DFA

March 10, 2009

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signs R.A. 9522, amending R.A. 5446

In fulfilment of the second Malaysian stipulation, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo removes mention of Sabah or North Borneo in the Archipelagic Baselines of the Philippines law


Nur Misuari issued a statement calling the attention of Malaysia to settle the Sabah issue.

June 2010

Sulu provincial board passed a resolution supporting the demand of heirs to increase the yearly payment to at least $500 Million. [161]

July 16, 2011

Supreme Court decision (GR No. 187167) upholds the baseline law

In its decision, the Supreme Court makes a conclusion of law: that R.A. 9522 did not repeal R.A. 5466, and that therefore, the Philippine claim over Sabah is retained and can be pursued. However, since this is a conclusion of law, the Supreme Court made its conclusion of law without explaining the reasons for its conclusion. It makes the decision, however, binding on the government.

April 24-27, 2012

Visit to the Philippines of Malaysian House Speaker Pandikar Amin Haji Mulia

Malaysian House Speaker Pandikar Amin Haji Mulia raised the matter of the opening of a consulate during his call on President Benigno S. Aquino III, who, in response, instructed the Secretary of Foreign Affairs to study the proposal.[162]
June 5, 2012

Upon returning from a visit to Malaysia, Vice-President Binay says he will recommend to the President the setting up of a Philippine Consulate in Sabah.

February 12, 2013

Followers of Jamalul Kiram numbering over 200 men landed in Laha Datu village in Sabah on February 12, 2013.

Seriously, this issue is stressing me out!! I continue to believe that the Philippines have alegitimate claim to Sabah. The fact that Malaysia is paying more than 7000 ringgitsannually to the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu until now, clearly showed that theyrecognize who the rightful owners of Sabah are! How could they lay claim to a territory when they are paying rent to Filipino citizens? You don’t have to be a lawyer to figure out that this part of Borneo is legally our turf.
Over the years, several hundred thousand Filipinos were forced out of Sabah, but the present dispensation have not dared to raise even a sigh of protest to this ruthless act against our compatriots. I am not sure why our dear leaders would not dare to antagonize this nation. They prefer to be bullied than asserting the rights of the affected Filipinos in exchange for what, economic ties?
It is very clear that Sabah is very much part of our country and its history. Malaysian government is pathetic. Nothing more, nothing less.

“Short History of the Sulu Sultanate.” Sovereign Sulu. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2013. <>.

British North Borneo. “British Borneo Treaties.” Lawnet. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2013. <>.

“Hadji Rodinood M. Sultan Julaspi Kiram – reigning 29th Sultan of Sulu.” Sovereign Sulu. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2013. <>.

“History of the Royal House of Sulu.” Official website of the Royal House of Sulu. N.p., 20 Dec. 1936. Web. 22 Feb. 2013. <!history&gt;.


Of Leases and Cessions

To begin with, there isn’t anything complicated with this situation at all. Simply put, the Philippines had always owned Sabah, now North Borneo, and all other countries claiming ownership to it had been leasing – meaning these foreigners have been paying rent to use North Borneo for a limited amount of time.

The problem arises when the rightful owner, the Sultan of Sulu, is caught in a pinch, and from there an Austrian, Baron de Overbeck, finally notices a chink in the armor and from that point ownership of North Borneo was obtainable with a leasing contract, presented by the Deed of 22 January 1878. Overbeck found an opportunity in selling the rights to Britishman Alfred Dent, and Dent established a company in order to both pay for the lease and make money of his own. When the company was down, Dent sold apparent rights to sovereignty to the British Government.

Except the only thing Dent bought from Overbeck was the lease contract and nothing more. That means these rights to sovereignty didn’t exist, and therefore the British Government’s purchase of North Borneo should have been considered nonexistent. All in all, the Sultan of Sulu still owns North Borneo.

During the Declaration of 24 April 1962 which was issued by the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu, North Borneo was ceded by these heirs and sovereignty was transferred to the Philippines.The heirs also passed a petition requesting to have North Borneo included in the national territory of the Philippines. On September 12, 1962, the Republic of the Philippines officially, legally accepted the cession of sovereignty over North Borneo by the Sultanate.

The Malaysian claim is based on the argument that the original document was a treaty of cession. It is claimed that the two adventurers, Overbeck and Dent, entered into the 1878 Deed as representatives of  BNBC and thus attained sovereignty over Sabah.

The two Europeans never acquired sovereignty over Sabah and had no power to transfer that sovereignty to BNBC, to the British Crown or to Malaysia, which is merely a successor-in-interest to Britain.


“Who owns Sabah?”

Situated on the island of Borneo, Sabah is richly blessed with nature diversity, unique cultures, fun adventures, beautiful beaches and fantastic cuisines for the adventurous taste buds. Sabah have it all. From the world’s largest flower- the Rafflesia, one of the highest mountains in South East Asia- Mount Kinabalu, to one of the world’s top dive sites- Sipadan Island. Sabah is also known for their great natural treasures which include the world-renowned Danum Valley Conservation Area and Tabin which is Sabah’s largest wildlife reserve. And that’s the thing about Sabah.

But behind all of  this, there’s a story lies between Malaysia and the Philippines.

A claim over the island of Sabah has developed into a serious issue between Malaysia and the Philippines. The problem is so complex that a definite and viable solution seems unforeseeable in the near future.

From the time it was acquired by the Sultan of Sulu from the Sultan of Brunei up to 24 April 1962 when it was formally ceded and transferred to the Republic of the Philippines under the title of sovereignty, the Sultanate of Sulu had continuously been the rightful sovereign of the portion North Borneo known as Sabah.

In the course of internal armed conflict in the Sultanate of Brunei referred by some historians as “civil war,” lasting for more than 10 years, the Sultan of Brunei requested the assistance of the Sultan of Sulu, with the promise that in the event of victory he would grant him the territories in North Borneo under his dominion. Following the victory of Sultan Muaddin of Brunei, with the armed intervention of the Sultan of Sulu, accordingly he ceded Sabah to the Sultan of Sulu in 1704.

By the Declaration of 24 April 1962 issued by the Heirs of the Sultan of Sulu, the territory of Sabah as thus required by cession from the Sultan of Brunei was ceded and transferred in sovereignty to the Republic of the Philippines. The Declaration was entitled “Recognition and Authority in Favour of the Republic of the Philippines.”

By this Declaration, the Philippine claim to sovereignty and dominion over a portion of North Borneo became a legal claim. After the cession from the Sultanate, the Philippines acquired the rights over the territory of North Borneo which it was duty-bound as a sovereign to protect and preserve.

This Declaration followed the petition of 5 February 1962 of the Heirs of the Sultan of Sulu addressed to the Department of Foreign Affairs. In this Petition the Heirs expressed their intention to have the portion of North Borneo included in the national territory of the Philippines.

By the Instrument of 12 September 1962, the Republic of the Philippines accepted the cession of sovereignty over Sabah proclaimed by the Sultanate of Sabah.

On 24 April 1962, congress adopted “Resolution urging the President of the Philippines to take the necessary steps for the recovery of a certain portion of the Island of Borneo and adjacent islands which belong to the Philippines.

On the basis of the Declaration of 24 April 1962 of the Heirs of the Sultan of Sulu on the transfer of sovereignty over Sabah, Congress enacted Republic Act No. 5446 amending the Baseline Law in Republic Act No. 3046, the amendment providing that the “Philippines has acquired dominion and sovereignty” over Sabah situated in North Borneo.

The Philippine-Malaysian dispute over the State of Sabah remains a contentious diplomatic issue. n 1878, the Sulu sultan entered into a deed of pajak with Austrian Gustavus Baron de Overbeck and Englishman Alfred Dent, who were representatives of a British company. The deed was written in Arabic. In 1946, Professor Harold Conklin translated the term “pajak” as “lease.” The 1878 deed provided for an annual rental. This treaty constitutes the main basis of the territorial dispute between the Philippines and Malaysia over Sabah. The Philippines claims that the term “pajak” means “lease,” while Malaysia claims that it means “cession.”

The Philippine claim to Sabah was formally filed in 1961 at The United Nations  during the administration of President Diosdado Macapagal (1961-1965) based on historical and legal claims. President Ferdinand Marcos assumed presidency in 1965. His alleged Jabiddah plan, supposedly proposing the invasion of Sabah, was publicly exposed, bringing the relations of Malaysia and the Philippines into a state of mistrust.

On September 16, 1963 after a four-month referendum on Sabah and Sarawak, the Cobbold Commision report was presented to the British government joining Malaya, Singapore, Brunei, Sarawak and Sabah (North Borneo) to form Malaysia; this after just a month of Sabah’s gaining it’s independence. United Borneo Front chairman Jeffrey Kitingan disputes the referendum in which Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and other’s claim that Sabahans’  desire to be part of Malaysia. “There has never been a referendum on Sabah as stated by some academics.  In fact, the so-called referendum in 1962-63 was actually only a sampling survey of less than four percent of the Sabah population,” he said.

Finally, Ariff argues that the peaceful settlement of the dispute would require the Philippines to drop the claim and concentrate all of its efforts in working closely and cooperating with Malaysia in the context of Association of Southeast Asian Nation ASEAN. For the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu, given their established proprietary rights in 1931 through the North Borneo Court, this kind of suggestion is unacceptable.

Former American Governor-General in the Philippines, Francis Burton Harrison, described the annexation as “political aggression” and urged the Philippine Government to take action.

When Sabah was incorporated into the formation of the Federation of Malaysia, the illegality of annexing Sabah as a Crown Colony remains in Malaysia’s succession-in-interest from Great Britain.

Through the Government of Malaya, the British Government announced that its territories in North Borneo, including Sabah, would form part of a new Federation of Malaysia.

The Philippines protested the British decision and called Britain’s attention to the sovereign rights of the Philippines over Sabah. After protracted negotiations, the British Government agreed to meet Philippine representatives to discuss the problem of North Borneo. Held in London in 1963, the negotiations proved to be inconclusive. In the meantime, the founding date of the new Federation was announced.

On the initiative of President Diosdado Macapagal, a Summit conference was convened in Manila from July 30 to August 5, 1963. In this conference, on 31 July 1963, President Soekarno of Indonesia, President Diosdado Macapagal and Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman of the Federation of Malaysia “approved and accepted the Manila Accord, paragraph 12 of which stipulates as follows:

“The Philippines made it clear that its position on the inclusion of North Borneo in the Federation of Malaysia is subject to the final outcome of the Philippine claim to Borneo. The Ministers took note of the Philippine claim and the right of the Philippines to continue to pursue it in accordance with international law and the principle of the pacific settlement of disputes. They agreed that the inclusion of North Borneo in the Federation of Malaysia would not prejudice either the claim or any right thereunder. Moreover, in the context of their close association, the three countries agreed to exert the best endeavors to bring the claim to a just and expeditious solution by peaceful means…of the parties’ own choice, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations and the Bandung Declaration.” (Emphasis added.)

In the same Summit Conference, the three Heads of Government signed a Joint Statement on 5 August 1963, paragraph 8 of which reads:

“In accordance with paragraph 12 of the Manila Accord, the three Heads of Government decided to request the British Government to agree to seek a just and expeditious solution to the dispute between the British Government and the Philippine Government  concerning Sabah (North Borneo)…The three Heads of Government take cognizance of the position regarding the Philippine claim to Sabah (North Borneo) after the establishment of the Federation of Malaysia as provided under paragraph 12 of the Manila Accord, that is, that the inclusion of Sabah (North Borneo) in the Federation of Malaysia does not prejudice the claim or any right thereunder.”

Malaysia had repeatedly acknowledged the Philippine claim to Sabah and that it is a claim that should be settled as soon as possible, including the prospect of settlement in the International Court of Justice. On its part, the Philippines persistently offered the settlement of dispute arising from its claim to Sabah.

In February 1964, the Malaysian Prime Minister had the understanding with the Philippine President to discuss “as soon as possible the best way of settling the dispute, not precluding reference to the International Court of Justice.”

In August 1964, the two governments agreed in an exchange of aides memoir to a meeting of their representatives in Bangkok for the purpose of clarifying the Philippine claim and of discussing the means of settling the dispute.

In February 1966, in response to Malaysia’s diplomatic note reiterating its assurance to comply with the Manila Accord and the concomitant Joint Statement, the Philippines proposed that “both Governments agree as soon as possible on a mode of settlement that is mutually acceptable to both parties.”

In June 1966, the two Governments, in a joint communiqué, agreed once again to abide by the Manila Accord and the Joint Statement; they reiterated their common purpose to clarify the Philippine claim and the means of settling it.

In July 1968, the Philippine delegation presented the Malaysian delegation with a written question, “Will you discuss with the modes of settlement of our claim at the conference in Bangkok, irrespective of your own unilateral assessment of the sufficiency of the clarification given?” Malaysia’s answer was unqualifiedly in the affirmative.

In August 1968, again in a joint communiqué, the two Governments agreed that talks on an official level would be held as soon as possible regarding the Philippine claim to Sabah.

The foregoing undertakings assume significance for the reason that they are not unilateral acts of the Philippines; they are commitments jointly made by Malaysia and the Philippines. They repeatedly affirm Malaysia’s recognition of the existence of the Philippine claim to Sabah and its willingness to settle the dispute arising from this claim.

In complete disregard of its commitments, Malaysia has been in full retreat. It is now in denial of the existence of the Philippine claim to Sabah. In consequence, it rests its case on the illegality of the colonization of Sabah by the British Crown.

Other basis of the proposition

On the basis of authoritative British and Spanish documents, The British North Borneo Co. being a private trading concern to whom Dent transferred his rights, did not and could not acquire dominion and sovereignty over North Borneo; as those indicated in the basic contract, that of a lessee and a mere delegate. In accordance with established precedents in International Law, the assertion of sovereign rights by the British Crown in 1946 is in complete disregard of the contract of 1878. Our commitments under the United Nations Charter, the Bandung Conference Declaration and the 1960 decolonization resolution of the General Assembly are matters of record and there is no quarrel about them. The British Crown never considered North Borneo as British territory, nor the North Borneans as British subjects.

In relation to Chapter 14 of the United Nations Charter, “the heirs of the Sultan” could not possibly litigate before the International Court of Justice for the simple reason that they have no international legal personality. They do not constitute a State, as that term is understood in law. Chapter 2, Article 34, paragraph 1 of the Statute clearly provides: “Only States may be parties in cases before the Court.”


The Philippines has nothing to lose by preserving the status quo in Sabah.  Their inactivity comes at a price of missed opportunities.  However, Malaysia stands to benefit from the treasures of Sabah and its waters.  Though the price of the status quo is negligible, this non-resolution of a claim by the Philippines would be a stumbling block to the intra-ASEAN cooperation.

Malaysia is fully supported by Great Britain and the Commonwealth of Nations in rejecting the claim, while the Philippines has literally no international support. Even the United States, Philippine’s biggest ally had assumed a neutral position. Though the other ASEAN countries appeared to distance themselves from the issue so as not to take sides between two of their members, privately acknowledged Malaysia’s rights to the territory.

Malaysia asserts that it has honored its financial obligations and is prepared to negotiate directly with the Sulu heirs without Philippine intrusion. They assert this matter is between them and the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu. In fact the descendants of the Sultan receives M$5,000 ($2,008 US) every year as part of the cession of the area leased to the British Company in the 19th century.

What has the Philippines to gain?

In 1963, Malaysia was still unsure of its hold on the sentiment of the people of Sabah before the Federation of Malaysia was made official signifying her independence as a colony of Britain. Kuala Lumpur continued to court the population with economic programs designated to secure their allegiance, US$7.3 million (Ringgit 22M) for 12 states to finance land settlement schemes in the East Tawau to Sandakan.

The distribution of free land, equally divided from ten to fifteen hectares, with housing and free seedling per family will enable each settler to earn P750 monthly from oil palm. These 400 families resettled near Sandakan to develop 7,000 acres of oil palm to become members of the planned Federation of Malaysia.

The Philippine-Malaysia dispute over Sabah was, and still is, a contentious diplomatic issue. In the interest of understanding its complexity (and one cannot discount that someone might be interested in the near future), a bibliographic essay, one that lists all available literature which directly or obliquely deals with the subject, is here undertaken

Sabah claim: History on Malaysia’s side

KUALA LUMPUR:  A scholar has urged Putrajaya to reject any call for a negotiation on the Sulu claim over Sabah, saying the issue was settled decades ago.

“Neither the Sulu Sultanate nor the Filipino government has a claim over the North Borneo state,” said DS Ranjit Singh, an expert on Southeast Asian political history who is now a visiting professor at Universiti Utara Malaysia.

“The moment we negotiate with them, we compromise our sovereignty,” he said in a talk at Universiti Malaya today.

He said the Sulu claim was futile for three reasons: the Philippine government’s predecessors renounced all claims over the state, the Sulu court has never administered the state, and the people of Sabah agreed to form Malaysia.

He said the sultanate lost its status as an independent entity after its capture by the Spaniards, which happened six months after the signing of the 1878 treaty stipulating that the British administrators of Sabah must pay cession fees to the Sulu court.

“Instead, the Spaniards became the sovereign rulers of the Philippines and it was they who renounced all claims of sovereignty over the territory in Borneo.”

When the United States took over the Philippines from the Spaniards, the American administrators in turn signed documents defining the international boundary of the country, Ranjit added.

“The Republic of the Philippines then inherited the Philippines from its predecessor, the US. So how can they claim in 1962 that Sabah is theirs when the predecessor has renounced that claim?”

According to him, these circumstances also give good reason for Malaysia to stop the monthly cession payment of RM5,300 to the sultanate. He urged Putrajaya to do so immediately.

Principle of effectivity

Ranjit also cited what he called the “principle of effectivity” as a reason why Sabah belonged to Malaysia and not the Philippines.

According to this principle, an authority loses its title over a state if it has never administered it or passed any law for it.

Ranjit gave as an example the dispute over Pulau Batu Puteh between Johor and Singapore. Johor lost the case because it had never administered the island.

He also pointed out that Sabah became independent on Aug 31, 1963, and agreed to form Malaysia on its own accord.

This was the essence of self-determinism, he added. “The people of Sabah did not say they wanted to join the Philippines. They preferred to form Malaysia.”

Ranjit also cautioned Malaysia against taking the issue to the International Court of Justice out of respect for Sabahans.

“We can’t just tell the three million Sabahans that the court will be deciding their fate, and they may be dislocated,” he said.

“We have to respect the will of the people of Sabah.”



As you can see, It’s supposed to be Danielle Ligan, from group 2, who’s going to post an article. But due to some reasons, our group decided that it will be me who’s going to take his part.


SABAH: White vs. Black

by: Gwynneth Muriel G. Guarin
Let’s try to see things in a different way. I see this dispute somewhat related to a chess game. The Philippines holds the white pieces and Malaysia holds the black pieces. The king of the white is represented by Sabah, the land that our ancestors of Sulu owned and the land interest of Malaysia. White moves first which gives it a better advantage on making a good plan. We had the Sabah since the 17th century. It was ceded by the Sultan of Brunei to the Sultan of Sulu as a payment for helping them in settling a civil war in their country. The Sultan Sulu had the sovereign power over Sabah for it was then under their territory. Malaysia made a move but then it was futile, we still have the upper hand.

Distractions and disturbances came in causing the player of the white to lose its focus. The Sultanate of Sulu and the British commercial syndicate (Alfred Dent and Baron von Overbeck) signed an agreement that leases Sabah to the British syndicate in return for a payment of 5000 Malayan Dollars per year. The United Kingdom established its protectorate over Sabah on 1888 and on 1915 the Sultanate of Sulu dissolved and was separated into sectors. The player made a very bad move exposing our king to the enemies. He can’t change it anymore because of the “Touch-move” policy. But in this game the player must know how to formulate a new tactic. The Philippines presents itself as the successor state of the Sultanate of Sulu, and has preserved a dormant claim over Sabah on the claim that the land was only leased to the British.The Philippine government had formally filed a claim to Sabah during the administration of President DiosdadoMacapagal on the basis of a historical and legal fact. His successor, President Ferdinand Marcos initially took a conciliatory posture towards Malaysia.

Malaysia believes that they own Sabah and they based it on its inclusion in the formation of the Federation of Malaysia. They’ve mentioned that whatever interest the British Government had in Sabah and whatever interests the British North Borneo Company (BNBC) had in Sabah, which were derived from whatever interests Overbeck and Dent derived from their 1878 agreement with Sultan of Sulu. This claim is said to be invalid. According to William Gladstone, a British Prime Minister, the Protectorate agreement can’t possibly deprive the Sultanate of Sulu of the sovereignty. Overbeck and Dent as private individuals have no legal status in international law to assume the power of sovereignty involved in the cession of territory.

The game, until today, is still going. Both parties had never given up on their claims. But our government made a mistake. They didn’t give much importance on this issue because they are busy claiming Spratly and Scarborough Shoal when in fact the only proof that we own West Philippine Sea is the UNCLOS unlike the Sabah that we already hold the legal and historical facts saying that we own it. And now Malaysia is enjoying the abundant resources of Sabah. This dispute could have been died years ago if it is given the attention it needed. We own Sabah but we are not enjoying its treasures, sad thing but true.

The game is not finished yet. Let’s not wait for the point where we won’t be able to do anything. If Malaysia can claim Sabah with weak basis why can’t we?


SABAH by: Andre Austin A. Trabajo :)

I strongly agree that the Philippines legally owns Sabah because of Republic Act No. 5446 or otherwise known as The Baseline law. RA 5446 materially states:

“The definition of the baselines of the territorial sea of the Philippine Archipelago as provided in this Act is without prejudice to the delineation of the baselines of the territorial sea around the territory of Sabah, situated in North Borneo, over which the Republic of the Philippines has acquired dominion and sovereignty.” (Sec. 2)

The Philippines legally owns Sabah because the Philippines’ claim is supported by facts and evidences. Here are some facts that I researched to show that the Philippines really has the right to own Sabah.

  1. The Philippines claim they have the legal and historical rights to North Borneo as the successor-in-interest of the Sultan of Sulu.

In the early part of the 1960s it became an imperative for the Philippines, aside from the strong historical and legal rights that North Borneo is important to Philippine territory and vital to its security. At this time (1960’s), communism in the region was in its height and Philippines were anxious that Malaya would succumb to the potent communist threat from mainland Southeast Asia, creating a scenario in which a communist territory would be immediately at the southern frontier of the Philippines.

  • Sufficient evidence has been shown on the side of the Sultan of Sulu that the Deed of 22 January 1878 executed by Sultan Mohammed Jamadul Alam with Gustavus Baron de Overbeck and Alfred Dent was an agreement of lease. “In consideration of this (territorial) lease… [they] promise to pay His Highness…and to his heirs and successors the sum of five thousand dollars annually to be paid each and every year.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              To conclude, the Malaysian claim to Sabah, based on the British claim, is not sustainable.  The territory was only leased as the British North Borneo Company and not ceded as the Great Britain, and later Malaysia, have claimed.


Philippines and China dispute over The Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal

I strongly believe and stand for the Philippines’ rightful claim to the spratly islands. We own the The Spratly because it lies on our 200 NM border. I have gathered facts that support the claims of the Philippines over the Spratly Islands and the Scarborough Shoal.

1. In the 1900 Treaty of Washington, it provided that any and all islands belonging to the Philippine archipelago, lying outside the lines described in Article III of the Treaty of Paris, were also ceded to the United Staes. This included the Scarborough Shoal, which is outside the Treaty of Paris treaty lines. In effect, the Treaty of Washington amended the Treaty of Washington amended the Treaty of Paris, so that the islands ceded by Spain to the U.S. included islands within and outside the Treaty of Paris treaty lines, so long as Spain had title or claim of title to the islands.

The DFA asserts that the baasis of Philippine sovereignty and jurisdiction over the rock features of Bajo de Masinloc are not premised on the cession by Spain of the Philippine archipelago to the United States under the Treaty of Paris, and argues that the rock features of Bajo de Masinloc are not included or within the limits of the Treaty of Paris as alleged by China is therefore immaterial and of no concequence.

2. In the Convention Between the United States and Great Britain (1930) was an agreement between the governments the United Kingdom and the United States to definitely delimit the boundary between North Borneo (then a British protectorate) and the Philippine archipelago (then a U.S. Territory).[1]

The convention was signed in Washington D.C. on January 2, 1930 by U.S. Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson and British Ambassador to the United States Esme Howard. It was ratified by the U.S. in February 1930 and, after clarification by exchanges of notes between the two governments in 1930 and 1932, by the United Kingdom in November 1932. It entered into force after an exchange of ratifications on December 13, 1932

3. President Ferdinand MArcos, by virtue of the Presidential Decree No. 1596 issues on June 11, 1978 asserted that islands designated as the Kalayaan Island Group and compromising most of the Spratly Islands are subject to the sovereignty of the Philippines, and by virtue of the Presidential Decree No. 1599 issued on June 11, 1978 claimedn Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) up to 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the baselines from which their territorial sea is measured.

-Laurence C. Tan Velez BSOT-1A


Philippines and China

There are two classes of people in a power play- the weak that usually submits to the strong that oozes authority and dominance. When a weak is having a boxing match against the strong the first instinct of the weak is to flee away from the blows and search for allies to backup in case the bully is in search of its prey. Why? It is in our nature to run away from something that causes harm or destruction; we move out of the way when someone tries to punch us or we flinch at the heat of a fire. Most of us allow ourselves to be ruled by the dictatorship of those who we think are stronger and look with prejudice upon those who we consider weaker than us.

This is what the Spratly Islands tug of war is all about, there’s a deeper issue at hand in this claim for territory, it’s the proclamation of power and exertion of dominance. It’s a reminder for the Philippines, one of the weakest in the region in terms of military might, who’s supposedly the ‘puppeteer’. However, the worthy will always prevail with reasons proved right by evidences.

  • The historical claim of China that it was the first one to discover the Islands in the 2nd century AD is weak; however, its strong military intimidation has kept it a key player in the Spratly Islands dispute but the Philippines has the rightful sovereignty and the historical rights as the ancestral and territorial domain over the Spratly Islands, furthermore, it also has legal basis and underwent the right processes and procedures in claiming the islands.
  • Ideally, the Spratly Islands should go to the country that is equipped and qualified to sustainably develop the islands’ resources and protect their diverse marine ecosystems which is why some argued that Philippines should take the islands, since China has pursued activities disregarding the people who have depended on the sea for their livelihood, the destruction of 300 acres of coral reef systems resulting to economic losses to coastal states valued at US $100 million annually. It has also tolerated environmentally harmful fishing practices at Bajo De Masinloc which breaches its obligations under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. In addition, the Philippines has almost 10% of the world’s marine protected areas (MPAs). With more than 500 MPA sites within Philippine waters, the government as well as the military is highly experienced in dealing with marine ecosystems and management, the MPAs have also shown signs of great success in conservation.

Without the support of the United States, the Philippines is reluctant to make aggressive claims over the Spratly Islands in fear of military retaliation from China. The US is not pushing the claims of the Philippines to avoid open warfare, and pushing the claim too strongly might undermine that. A controversial journalist from the Manila Bulletin writes, “The Philippines is a weak republic that, like a church mouse, occasionally roars like a lion, and settles down like a lapdog”.

Ergo, I stand beside Philippines. The conflict over the Spratly can be resolved if both parties have the political will and genuine determination to do so. In this regard, the situation going on should be turned into an issue of unity of the nations, rather than separation. That ambition has been successfully attained for other national sovereignty disputes elsewhere, and it is not beyond the territory of possibility for the South China Sea as well.


Abenio, Y. L. (2013, December 12). Argumentative Research Paper PPT. about the Spratly Islands Dispute between China and the Philippines. Retrieved from

Cheng, B. (2013, June 4). Retrieved from Scientific American:

DFA. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Lagura, G. B. (n.d.). Philippines’ ownership to Spratly Island. Retrieved from

Villanueva, H. (2013). Weak Republic. Manila Bulletin.

Yan, G. (n.d.). Rehabilitating Philippine Coral Reefs . Retrieved from Wildlife Extra:

My Opinion as to Who Will Own the Spratly Islands

So far, the two main countries fighting over the Spratly Islands are Philippines and China. Each country has something to say in their defense and both countries are playing by different rules, which makes the situation more complicated. The tension has only become worse ever since the involvement of the United States and Japan. The International Court is also having some difficulty in resolving the situation because of how China has agreed to the UNCLOS after it was ratified. In the end, one country will have to give up its claim over these Islands. But for now, let us try to weigh out the odds using facts.asd

The following are reasons which I believe are the reasons why the Philippines has no reason to claim these islands:

  • The 200-mile exclusive economic prescribed under the Law of the Sea does not categorically state that those islands within this marine parameters automatically belong to such country, even if there are other sovereign countries claiming ownership or sovereignty of these islands.
  • Historically, the Philippines has no record that she was the first to discover, occupy, or conquer these islands. Because of this, disputes with other claimants exist since they insist that the country has no right to claim ownership of these islands from the standpoint of the law of discovery, law of conquest, law of treaty, or other international law stipulating the modes of territorial possession, ownership, or acquisition.

The following are reasons which I believe are the reasons why China has no reason to claim these islands:

  • If China’s claims are justified on the basis of history, then so are the historical claims of Vietnamese and Filipinos based on their histories. This makes their logic very flawed and only further lessens their odds of claiming these islands in the long run.
  • China’s so-called “historic claims” to the South China Sea are actually not “centuries old.” They only go back to 1947, when Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalist government drew the so-called “eleven-dash line” on Chinese maps of the South China Sea, enclosing the Spratly Islands and other chains that the ruling Kuomintang party declared were now under Chinese sovereignty. Following the victory of the Chinese Communist Party in the civil war in 1949, the People’s Republic of China adopted this cartographic coup, revising Chiang’s notion into a “nine-dash line” after erasing two dashes in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1953.

Now that these facts have been presented and taken into account, I am now be able to give my opinion on the situation. Neither country is going to win with only these specific facts. Sure, the Philippines may be able to claim a portion of the islands, but so can China. One country must either find more evidence, or disprove the evidence of the other so that one may be able to start claiming it with more proper and legitimate reason or reasons.


By: Ian Alacrito

The Spratly Islands Dispute Between China and the Philippines

Found in 1834 by British whaling captain Richard Spratly, the Spratly Islands are one of the major archipelagos in the South China Sea. The islands spread over a vast area of more than 425,000 km2 (164,000 mi2). These islands are located midway between Vietnam and the Philippines, and are claimed by many countries namely – China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei. These countries are causing a big dispute over these islands due to their prime location where many fishing, merchant and survey ships pass. Not to forget the potential sources of natural gas and oil found under the islands’ seabed. What is more important to these countries is the ability to control of the sea lanes surrounding these island. In the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea, all ships are given the right to conduct the innocent passage (unarmed, no unloading of goods or people, etc.) of their ships on all territorial seabeds (Part II, Section 3, Subsection A, Articles 17-19). This means that ships are allowed to get within 12 nautical miles from the coast of a country, as long as they are not a threat to the national security of that country. However, tankers or ships that may carry hazardous materials may be directed to use specialized sea lanes to execute their passage through a country’s territorial waters (Part II, Section 3, Subsection A, Articles 22-23). China claims by far the largest portion of territory – an area defined by the “nine-dash line” which stretches hundreds of miles south and east from its most southerly province of Hainan. The other major claimant in the area is the Philippines, which conjures to its geographical closeness to the Spratly Islands as the main basis of its claim for part of the grouping. China and the Philippines have the most conflict; as of 2015, the Philippines has filed a case to the ITLOS, or International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea regarding this matter.

I agree with the Philippines that they have the right to claim the Spratly’s as theirs. One reason, because the Philippines has recently shown an exhibit in Manila of 60 ancient maps of Asia that authorities say expose China’s claimed “historical ownership” over the Scarborough Shoal. The Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said in a public assembly that he hopes the maps during China’s Southern Song Dynasty would finally settle the dispute in the South China Sea in the Philippines’ favor.” The cartographic display is also view-able online at the Institute of Maritime and Ocean Affairs website. The collection of maps shows the island of Hainan, China’s southernmost region, as not including any maritime territories, particularly the Scarborough Shoal and Spratly Islands.China has been regarded to use maps in the past as a way of cultural warfare. Based on the same ancient maps, the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal not once appeared in any Chinese dynasty maps. The Spratlys are more than 600 nautical miles from Hainan Island and Scarborough Shoal is 500 nautical miles. On the other hand, numerous ancient maps, made by both Westerners and Filipinos form 1636 to 1940, “consistently show that Scarborough Shoal… has always been part of Philippine territory,’ Carpio said. Earlier last 2014, the Chinese government released a new official “vertical” map which not only included the mainland, but also much of the South China Sea. The other, because the Philippines established its Exclusive Economic Zone up to 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the territorial sea is measured by the Presidential Decree No. 1599 in June 1978. The Spratly islands are 124nm west from Zambales, Philippines while they are 550nm from Hainan, China. This is within accordance to that law as stated by the Department of Foreign Affairs. The third reason being that a book entitled “Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal): Maps and Documents” which is a compilation of documents that prove the Shoal has always been a part of the Philippine national territory, has been released. It is a collaboration between the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea (UP IMLOS) and the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA). “Bajo de Masinloc has been historically part of the Philippines since 1636” Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said during the book launch. It is also noted that China’s argument in its territorial claim over the West Philippines Sea has no legal basis under international law. UP IMLOS director Jay Batongbacal said that the United States recognizes that the Scarborough Shoal is part of the territory of the Philippines, as signed by the US and Spain in the Treaty of Washington. The treaty states, “Spain relinquishes to the United States all title and claim of title, which she may have had at the time of the conclusion of the Treaty of Peace of Paris, to any and all islands belonging to the Philippine Archipelago.” Even though China uses their maps and the 9 dash line as their bases for claiming this territory, it is clear to see that the Philippines has the upper hand.


By: LIGUTOM, Martina