In response to former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr., the Duterte administration stressed that it has no intentions of amending the Constitution affecting Philippine territory.
“The Palace has not made any pronouncement that the Charter should be redrafted in a manner that would give up any Philippine territory,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said on a February 5 press briefing.
“The language of the Constitution, be it ’35, ’73, and ’87 provides for no definition of national territory. That’s not one of the parts of the Constitution that the Palace seeks to amend or revise,” he added.
Roque made the statement after Pimentel’s proposal of making Sabah the country’s 13th federal state in a shift to a federal form of government.
Pimentel proposed, “Eventually, once we have asserted our sovereignty and rights over Sabah, we should include Sabah. Not only Sabah, but also Scarborough, Benham Rise, and the Spratlys.”
However, the Malaysian government rejected Pimentel’s proposal.
“The government of Malaysia reiterates its position that Malaysia does not recognize and will not entertain any claims by any party on Sabah,” Foreign Minister of Malaysia Datuk Seri Anifah Aman.
The media asked the Presidential spokesman to comment, to which he replied, “My answer is there is a definition of Philippine territory in all our Constitutions. It includes territory by reason of historic title.”
The Philippines’ claimed ownership of Sabah roots from the sultanate of Sulu who used to rule some parts of the land. Sabah was leased to the British North Borneo Co. But in 1963, the British government turned over Sabah to the Federation of Malaysia.
The Malaysian government, however, insists that Sabah was not eased but ceded, and that the international community recognizes Sabah as part of its territory.
Before assuming his Presidency, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte vowed to address the Philippines’ claim on Sabah.