Claim and Reclaiming: Relations at Stake From Lapu-Lapu to Jose Rizal, Philippine history is full with people who fought against overwhelming odds and won. Of course, we were colonized by the Spaniards and Americans, occupied by the Japanese and subjugated by a home-grown dictator. But the point is the Filipino spirit is indomitable and despite of the awesome might of our oppressors, we still prevailed in the end. This kind of spirit is again in quest with the issues of claiming for expanded territories.
I want to plug in the current issues of claiming Sabah and Spartly Islands as part of the Philippine territory despite of the number of contenders suing for it. First, let’s take a look on Sabah. Historically, Sabah is owned by the Sultan of Brunei but then it was given to the Sultan of Sulu as a gift. But during the colonial regime of the British in Malaysia, they want to include Sabah on their territory for prior reasons. So, the imperialists ask the Sultan of Sulu for a lease to acquire Sabah.
The lease was granted but after the British regime, Malaysia gains independence and declare Sabah is part of their territory but until now they are still paying for the rent in Sabah. Now, the Sultanate of Sulu is claiming for the return of Sabah to their ownership. Then, the misconception rises on both contenders in this issue. Malaysian government view the agreement as a sale or mortgage, while the Sultanate of Sulu, it is only a lease. As I take my view points on the issue, I suspect that possibly claiming Sabah is just about money and political maneuver.
Because after all, one that motivate the claim of Sabah is the small amount of money given by Malaysia to the Sultanate of Sulu compare to the large size of the total land area of Sabah. Then, again political interests could be lurking around in the claiming of the land because once the Sabah is brought back, the Sultanate of Sulu could gain economic and political power in the Republic of the Philippines. Then, as I hypothesize, it could lead to the overwhelming control of the Sultan of Sulu not only on the southern part but perhaps to the entire Mindanao.
If that would happen, they would make a new concept of government under the Sultanate of Sulu separated from the Republic of the Philippines. Perhaps, I could say they want to summon back their flourishing kingdom in the old days. Back to the issue, Sultan of Sulu had legal evidences that Sabah is really part of their ownership but the Malaysia unwillingly wants to give up Sabah. Now, Sultan of Sulu want to claim it even by force conduct of war but the government of the Philippines intervene and suggest a peaceful process.
But the Sultan of Sulu is tired of that process because a number of administrations have past and still they were doing nothing on the issue. For me, the Sultanate’s decision is reasonable because, as I understand the beliefs of Muslim, claiming what is really their own is adherent to their Islamic rights. If we take on the current situation the Philippine government turns its back on helping our Muslim comrades. Rest assured, Sultan of Sulu would do anything for bringing back the Sabah even by spilling blood of its associates.
Quite reasonable also the claim of the Sultan is for the welfare of its people because of the conquest situation of the economy in Sulu. If Sabah would be taken back, Sulu would gain a pillar of hope from its down-hearted economic situation. As for me, I’m hoping that Philippine government would never cut the strings that bind the trust of the people of Sulu. I’m hoping that between Malaysia and the Sultanate of Sulu would realize the bloodsheds they sacrifice. After all, they are all brothers and sisters in Islamic faith.
In the end, I hope peace would prevail because Islam means peace. Second, Spratly Islands are of political and strategic importance to regional players like China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines, as well as indirectly, the United States. At stake is potentially billions of dollars’ worth of oil and gas, making the exploration and control of the Spratly Islands of strategic concern. Not only that, the West Philippine Sea in general is a vital shipping lane connecting the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
The Spratly Islands is in the middle of the region, making control over them of strategic importance. For this issue, Philippines and China are the major contenders for the claim. The Philippines’ claim is based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, because UNCLOS sets “exclusive economic zones,” giving a country sole exploitation rights over all natural resources within 200 nautical miles from the baseline. Logically, Spratly Islands is within the 200 nautical miles of the Philippines.
On the other hand, the Chinese see Spratly’s as historical territory and they have sovereignty over it. For my view, I suggest Philippines must resign itself to this race or withdraw every claim it has over the Spratly Islands. Rest assured, China will not give up. Their national pride will not allow it, especially now they are targeting to be a superpower with everything that title entails. Also, claiming for these small islands the Philippine and China relationship would be at stake and might affect economic status especially to the Philippines.
Moreover, if the Philippines would successfully claim it, they would struggle in developing the full economic capacity of the islands. It would be just a display or an addition to the territory without its utilization for the economic profit. To recommend for the solution, I would say that the answer to the situation is a combination of political, military and economic moves. The nation must explore and use the resources of the Spratly Islands as quickly as it can. If it must partner with other claimants, then should it be.