His Excellency Ferdinand E. Marcos
President of the Philippines
On a radio-television chat regarding the Sabah claim issue
[Delivered on September 22, 1968]
PURSUE SABAH CLAIM BY PEACEFUL MEANS
Let me discuss with you tonight the recent developments concerning the Sabah question.
I am sure many of the aspects of this question in which you are interested will be raised through the questions that will shortly be asked by the panel we have with us here tonight.
I shall therefore merely say that the recent developments do not warrant any impatience or panic on the part of the Filipino people. We are watching developments closely, and we are optimistic that our position will be fully understood soon enough. This position is quite clear and simple. We will pursue our claim to Sabah by peaceful means, and we hope that Malaysia will see its way to an early and satisfactory settlement, either in the United Nations, the World Court, or any forum affording justice and sobriety.
I wish to add that our position from the beginning of this controversy has always been that this matter, being a justiciable issue, should be brought to the International Court of Justice, otherwise known as the World Court.
The Malaysian government has opposed this consistently.
I reiterate the position of the Philippines. We trust in the justness of our claim, and so we do not fear the World Court, composed of international jurists, who can be depended upon and whose integrity is unassailable.
I wish to add that the new controversy arose from my signing of what is known as the “Sabah Bill,” Senate Bill No. 954. The hostile reaction to the signing of the bill is completely unwarranted.
I pointed out in a letter to our Secretary of Foreign Affairs that I have ascertained from the text and intent of the statute that this piece of legislation does not include in its description of the baselines of the national territory of the Philippines the territory known as Sabah, in North Borneo. There is no intention in this bill to physically incorporate the said territory, Sabah, into the national territory of the Philippines. I repeat, the baselines of the national territory of the Republic of the Philippines as defined in this bill does not include Sabah. The root of the controversy is about Section 2 of this new law, which simply restates the long-held well-known Philippine official position that the Republic has acquired sovereignty and dominion over the territory of Sabah in accordance with a series of events, acts, agreements and transactions, including the Deed of Cession from the Sultan of Sulu of 1962 to the Philippines.
I also wish to say that the Philippines will pursue its right to Sabah by peaceful means in accordance with the provisions of its Constitution, our Constitution, which renounces war as an instrument of national policy, and that our country is also committed to the principles of the United Nations binding member states to the pacific settlement of international disputes.
The Philippines, of course, has always adhered to the Manila Accord, especially Section 12 thereof, and the Joint Statement of the three heads of state of the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia. These agreement provide for the settlement of the Philippine claim to Sabah by peaceful means, such as negotiation, conciliation, arbitration, or judicial settlement as well as other peaceful means of parties own choice, in conformity with the charters of the United Nations and the Bandung Conference.
As I have said, I am surprised by the reaction of the Sabahans and the Malaysians on the signing of Senate Bill 954, because in 1950 our Congress approved a resolution which more or less ascertained the right of sovereignty and dominion—not only more or less—which actually ascertained the right of sovereignty and dominion over the territory.
May I read some portions of this resolution by our Congress
“Whereas, it results from the foregoing that the action of the British Government on July 16, 1946, annexing North Borneo as a crown colony is unwarranted and illegal; that the territory belongs to the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu, who are all Filipino citizens and who have approached the authorities of the Philippine government for the protection of their rights; that subject to an adjustment of the lease rights of the British Government as the ultimate successor of the original lessees, the said territory should be restored to the ownership of said Filipino citizens and to the sovereign jurisdiction of the Republic of the Philippines whose authority of said heirs recognize without qualification:
“Resolved by the House of Representatives of the Philippines, the Senate concurring, That it is the sense of the Congress of the Philippines that subject to the lease rights of the British Government, the territory known as the British North Borneo belongs to the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu and falls under the ultimate sovereignty of the Republic of the Philippines; that the President of the Philippines is authorized to negotiate with the British Government or to take other suitable steps for the restoration of the ownership over the territory to the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu and the recognition of the sovereign jurisdiction of the Philippines over the same; and that the President is requested to inform the Congress of the Philippines of such action as he may take relative hereto, and if necessary, to recommend to this Congress such measures as may be expedient to carry out the import of this resolution.”
This was adopted on April 28, 1950.
Then the action by Mohammad Ismael Kiram, the Sultan of Sulu, on November 25, 1957:
“I have declared and do hereby declare the termination of the said lease in favor of Gustavus Baron de Overbeck and Alfred Dent, their heirs and assigns, effective the 22nd day of January, 1958, and that from and after that date all the lands covered by the said lease shall be deemed restituted thenceforth to the Sultanate of Sulu.”
And the resolution of April 24, 1962 of our Congress again 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 appertain to the Philippines:
“Whereas, it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the claim of the Republic of the Philippines upon a certain portion of the Island of Borneo and adjacent islands is legal and valid: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the House of Representatives, to urge, as it hereby does urge, the President of the Philippines to take the necessary steps consistent with international law and procedure for the recovery of a certain portion of the Island of Borneo and adjacent islands which appertain to the Philippines.
Adopted unanimously, April 24, 1962.”
I wish to reiterate that the official position of the Philippines has always been to refer this controversy and this claim to the World Court or the International Court of Justice. The Malaysian government has refused to refer the matter to this prestigious international body: and under the rulings concerning the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice, no case can be brought to it for settlement without the agreement of both the conflicting parties.
Now I am ready for the questions from the panel.
MR. DE LA CRUZ:—Mr. President, I would like to ask a question that would be something like putting the cart before the horse.
THE PRESIDENT:—Go ahead.
MR. DE LA CRUZ:—Well, we all seek and hope for a peaceful solution of this problem. There is, nevertheless, a possibility that armed conflict may break out between the Philippines and Malaysia. In that event, Mr. President, how would we stand up in a protracted war?
THE PRESIDENT:—In the first place, I don’t believe that this conflict will result in war. There may be incidents, but certainly both Malaysia and the Philippines, I feel are trying to avoid war.
With respect to the second part of your question, as to our capability to defend ourselves, and I mean defend I am not speaking of any aggressive war efforts to enter into any foreign territory, we are capable of defending our national territory without the aid of any foreign power.
MR. DE LA CRUZ:—I would like to ask another question on the aid of the foreign power. Mr. President, yesterday you called Ambassador G. Menen Williams to Malacañang. I presume you asked him about the stand of the United States in the event of military or violent action. Would you please tell us, we would like to know, what his answer was to your question?
THE PRESIDENT:—Well, he reiterated the position always adopted by the United States that they would abide by the treaty commitments in the event of an attack on the Philippines.
MR. DE LA CRUZ:—Are you satisfied with that verbal assurance, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT:—I submitted to the Ambassador an aide memoire. I presume that this will be answered in the same way.
MR. DE LEON:—I understand, Mr. President, that Malaysia has already replied to our protest which we filed yesterday in connection with the sacking of the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, wherein Malaysia expressed regret for the incident, and promised and assured us that it won’t happen again. Are you satisfied with that reply, Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT:—This is the usual diplomatic note of apology, and I suppose that this is what we have expected the Malaysians will do.
MR. DE LEON:—We have reserved our right in that protest, Mr. President, to take an action in accordance with international law. In view of that reply, are we still proceeding with the exercise of that right, which we have reserved in that protest?
THE PRESIDENT:—The right that we could exercise should be a demand for an apology and a demand for reparations, meaning a demand for the payment of damages arising from the rioting.
MR. DE LEON:—In view of this assurance of the Malaysian government on the safety of our embassy officials, are you still recalling the diplomatic and consular officials that we have in Kuala Lumpur in accordance with the decision of the Foreign Policy Council?
THE PRESIDENT:—The decision still stands. But we are keeping the diplomatic staff there perhaps for some time.
I am referring to the original official position of our government to recall the Ambassador and the diplomatic staff. However, as I told you, in view of this incident, they may have to stay there for some time.
MR. BROWNE:—Mr. President, the greatest weakness of the Malaysian posture seems to be its unwillingness to go to the World Court for arbitration. In my mind the great strength of the Philippines is its willingness to go to the World Court or the United Nations. Do you have any indication, any inkling as to why Malaysia refuses to take this to a third party—the World Court or the United Nations?
THE PRESIDENT:—Well, I can only guess as to their motivation.
All I can say is that if I were sure of my case, on the basis of history and of law, I would not be afraid to go to the World Court.
MR. BROWNE:—Now, in the light of what I stated as weakness and strength, do you not feel that there is virtue in the Philippines answering all charges, questions and incidents with simply a statement:—“Let’s go to the World Court.” In one way or another, will this not do more to mold world opinion in favor of our stance?
THE PRESIDENT:—I believe you are correct, and we have always adopted this position—that we do not want anything except a fair and just trial by prestigious jurists like the international jurists of the International Court of Justice. Nobody has been able to explain now why this reference to the International Court of Justice is vigorously objected to and opposed vehemently by the Malaysians. And, of course, we have notified all our missions abroad, including the United Nations, to explain this position of the Philippines. I think this is our greatest strength.
MR. BROWNE:—Thank you, sir.
MR. NANCE:—In a practical sense, with Malaysia refusing and not willing to go to the World Court, the question that stays on both sides is a matter of national pride, and some essential domestic politics influence the situation. In view of the Malaysian refusal to go to the World Court, what do you see as a practical solution that will give satisfying, satisfactory way out to both sides?
THE PRESIDENT:—Perhaps negotiations and arbitration. But the official position that we have adopted, I repeat, is to refer the issue to the World Court. I feel that the negotiations that were broken off by the Malaysians in Bangkok should have continued, and then ultimately this negotiation should have referred the issue to the World Court.
MR. NANCE:—Looking a little bit ahead, now with United Nations sessions coming up, and Foreign Secretary Ramos is going there, will the matter be brought before the United Nations?
THE PRESIDENT:—There will be a period of general debate where the permanent representatives or the chairman of the delegations would be allowed to speak or make what is known as the opening statement. The chairman of our delegation, as well as the chairman of the delegation of Malaysia may bring the Sabah issue to the attention of the United Nations through these opening statements.
MR. NANCE:—Will it actually be brought before the body, as a matter for the agenda, or present it half-way, or just simply bring it up?
THE PRESIDENT:—Inasmuch as this matter was actually brought about by a requirement of the United Nations that each country establish its baselines, and that these baselines be registered with the Secretary General of the United Nations; it is actually in the forum of the United Nations.
MR. ALABASTRO:—Mr. President, the Sabah dispute has threatened to escalate into a major Southeast Asian crisis. Defense preparations are taking place in both countries, and there have been fears of war that have been expressed. Significantly, there has been no mention of steps being taken by other countries to resolve the crisis. In this connection, what formula or proposal do you have to diffuse the present situation? I am not referring to the resolving of the basic problem which is the question of Sabah, but just calming down the present tense situation.
THE PRESIDENT:—In the first place, all the efforts that we have undertaken, whether military or diplomatic, are aimed at one thing, and that is—that we protect our national territory.
You refer to defense preparations, and that is exactly what they are.
Our preparations are for defensive purposes. Whatever may have been said about Corregidor and the Jabidah forces, the truth of the matter is that there is no intention for any of our armed forces elements to infiltrate any of the territory which may be the subject of this controversy. There is no intention to invade that area, or to take over any portion thereof, by violence or by force.
I presume that Malaysia has likewise no intention of invading our territory.
But we are taking steps against possible internal subversion. As you know reports on both sides are to the effect that there are agents operating in our respective territories, and the military cannot close its eyes to this.
What have we done in order to diffuse this tension and this crisis which might explode into something unmanageable?
I must inform you that I am sure other parties are now busy trying to bring about a negotiation, a conference, between our two countries.
I have repeatedly said that it becomes necessary to explain our position, and I am willing to meet with anyone in order that this matter can be negotiated and to avoid any continuing tension in this area. I have said before that I am also willing to go to the United Nations to explain our position. I am willing to go anywhere if that is necessary, in order to bring about a negotiation of this crisis.
MR. ALABASTRO:—You have mentioned other parties trying to bring about a conference, some kind of a peace conference. Are you in a position now, Mr. President, to identify these other parties?
THE PRESIDENT:—No, I cannot. But I must inform you that the indications are that other nations, whether in Asia or outside, are interested in bringing about a settlement of this controversy. And I am very happy about this. I welcome the efforts of anyone to bring about a peaceful settlement of this controversy.
MR. ALABASTRO:—Thank you, Mr. President.
MR. MARABUT:—Mr. President, in view of recent developments which tend to underline a worsening crisis over the Sabah dispute, is there any possibility at all that the Philippines might or would be considering dropping the claim, say on the grounds that constant Malaysian refusal to accept this claim and bring it to the World Court: on grounds that, you know, threatens the peace and stability of the region?
THE PRESIDENT:—No, I don’t believe that there is any plan of this nature. The present position of the Philippines still is, that we are ready to pursue this claim peacefully—but resolutely. If the World Court were to decide that our claim has no basis whatsoever, we would immediately follow the order and judgment of the World Court. If that includes the dropping of the claim, then we would have to drop the claim.
MR. MARABUT:—One more question, Sir.—I understand that you gave assurance to the Malaysian government that Malaysians here in the Philippines will be amply protected in the wake of these demonstrations in Kuala Lumpur, in which they hauled down our flag. What steps have we taken to protect the Malaysians. . . ?
THE PRESIDENT:—We have assigned units of the local police and the Armed Forces, and the Philippine Constabulary to the embassy and chancery of Malaysia. We have also listed the Malaysian nationals who may be in need of protection. We have assigned security to the Malaysian diplomatic establishments—three motorized units, a joint Makati police and Metrocom team, local reserves at the Makati headquarters, and additional reserves of one P.C. Home Defense company at Camp Crame. But as of now the situation is quiet.
MR. ZUMEL:—You said that you are ready to go anywhere or to meet anybody to bring about solution to this dispute. Do you have any plans at this time to amplify the Philippine position on our claim?
THE PRESIDENT:—No. Unless it is necessary I will not go there.
MR. ZUMEL:—There have been suggestions in the public press that we withdraw the Philcag and abrogate the bases treaty with America. This suggestion came in the wake of a statement attributed to Mr. McCloskey of the U.S. State Department that they recognize Malaysia’s ownership of Sabah. How do you react to this suggestion, Sir?
THE PRESIDENT:—These suggestions have not been officially made and our position is that we await the formal statement and clarification by the U.S. government on the McCloskey statement.
MR. ZUMEL:—Now, with respect to the Philippine-American mutual defense pact, Sir, does it contemplate mutual assistance in case of attack from any source?
THE PRESIDENT:—Yes, it does. The agreements are quite clear, and these are confirmed further by arrangements or rather statements by two Presidents of the two countries, not only under my administration, but under the Macapagal administration and the Garcia administration.
MR. ZUMEL:—Thank you, Sir.
MR. MALIWANAG:—Sir, what are the possible effects of this dispute between Malaysia and the Philippines on regional organizations like ASEAN and the Asian Development Bank? By some coincidence, Mr. President, the ADB is granting a loan to Malaysia in the amount of 7.2 million dollars, and the agreement is to be signed tomorrow. Now, could this dispute place these organizations—the ASEAN and the ADB—in jeopardy, Sir?
THE PRESIDENT:—Undoubtedly, there is tension between Malaysia and the Philippines, but they should not affect the regional arrangements and agreements, like the ASEAN and the Asian Development Bank. From my point of view the matter of the controversy over the Sabah is a matter of interpretation of a document and old documents. It is a legal issue, and therefore does not involve the notions of two peoples. Unfortunately, for reasons I cannot now divine, the Malaysians have emotionally reacted to what I said. It is nothing but a reiteration of our claim and a restatement of the policies already established as far back as 1950 and 1962.
Now, is it my intention to prejudice the regional arrangements of cooperation?
No. On the contrary, I have always stood for regional cooperation. We believe that in it lies the strength of the area, and I intend to see to it that this cooperation is strengthened. Right now I am a little sad about these developments. I hope that in the future, we shall be able to move farther and progress in our efforts at regional cooperation. I would like to state that, notwithstanding the emotional reactions of the Malaysians, we are ready to cooperate with them on any other matter, except the Sabah.
MR. MALIWANAG:—This, despite the apparent suspension of relations?
THE PRESIDENT:—There is no rupture of diplomatic relations. What the Malaysians have done, what we have done, are short of rupture of diplomatic relations.
MR. MALIWANAG:—Same topic, but with different angle—Mr. President, some reactions from abroad accused Filipino authorities, including you by name, of using this issue to promote political ends. Perhaps you would want to say something about this?
THE PRESIDENT:—On the contrary, it prejudices my political postion because it creates conflicts within the Philippines. I think you are well aware of the fact that the status quo in the political situation favors me, that any conflicts or tensions place in jeopardy the present prestigious position of the administration.
MR. MARABUT:—Sir, I just want to ask—Malaysians have abrogated the anti-smuggling cooperation and agreement. What steps have we taken to continue our efforts to check smuggling?
THE PRESIDENT:—The establishment of what is known as the Southern Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is not only intended for defense of the national territory but also primarily to strengthen the anti-Smuggling net in the South.
In addition to this the civil authorities, like the bureau of customs, the ASAC, the RASAC, the agents of the CID, agents of the NBI and the agents of the finance department, have been coordinating efforts against smuggling in the South.
MR. MARABUT:—Are you recalling our customs officers in Sabah?
THE PRESIDENT:—Not just yet. You know, under the anti-smuggling agreement, Malaysia, the unilateral abrogation of the anti-smuggling agreement takes effect six months after notice of such abrogation.
MR. MARABUT:—I understand the Tunku has informed the Philippine government that they should bring these people back. Has there been steps taken to make sure that they are safe there within the six months period?
THE PRESIDENT:—Yes, we are in communication with them.
MR. DE LA CRUZ:—I would like to go back to the problem; sometime early this year when you went on a state visit to Malaysia, you and the Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman issued a joint communique stating that you will be calling up a meeting soon, referring obviously to the Bangkok talks. What I would like to know, Mr. President, is whether you and the Tunku have made any provisions then on the event the talks should collapse in Bangkok.
THE PRESIDENT:—The talks on an official level was supposed to be preliminary. There were agreements between our ministers—between the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia and our Secretary of Foreign Affairs—that the negotiations would continue, would be a continuing arrangement.
MR. DE LA CRUZ:—Do you have any date in mind for future negotiations in spite of developments?
THE PRESIDENT:—Well, no, because Malaysia does not want to sit down and talk to us. But as I said I am willing to talk to anyone, whether it is the Malaysian representative or head of state, or any other head of state who may have any suggestion on the matter.
MR. DE LA CRUZ:—I understand, Mr. President, that they sent one of their best, or their best, legal minds to the United Nations reportedly to counteract any proposals we might have in that world body. Do we have a similar legal mind also to counteract their counteraction?
THE PRESIDENT:—As far as I am concerned, any of our ambassadors is equal to any of their best mind. And our permanent representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Lopez, is not anybody to laugh at. The Secretary of foreign affairs is there. Ambassador Quintero is going there. So we are not taking any unusual preparations to meet any suppose legal mind. We are ready to meet them.
What I would like to see is for the legal minds of Malaysia to bring the matter to the World Court so that we can argue there before other legal minds.
MR. DE LA CRUZ:—Thank you, Mr. President.
MR. DE LEON:—Going back again to previous negotiations on this Sabah question. Why do we not capitalize on the supposed agreement made by the Tunku before to bring or elevate this thing to the World Court?
THE PRESIDENT:—We did. We did capitalize on this. And that is what made the Malaysians sore. They maintained that Tunku Abdul Rahman never agreed to the elevation of this matter to the World Court.
Of course, you know, President Macapagal, in his memoires, has another version. He claims that the Tunku did agree with him to elevate the issue to the International Court of Justice.
MR. DE LEON:—Now, Mr. President, because of this requirement of the World Court, of consent by the other party, is there no way of seeking an amendment to this requirement in order that we might be able to elevate this case without the consent of the other party?
THE PRESIDENT:—Yes. There are many parties who have attempted to bring about the amendment. And as you know, one of our senators suggested this in the Interparliamentary Union. I think it was some kind of body with jurisdiction over controversies, like this to prevent any armed conflicts. This certainly would do much toward removing any causes of friction between nations.
MR. DE LEON:—Would you inspire a move to amend the rules, in view of this present crisis with Malaysia?
THE PRESIDENT:—Yes, we already had. In fact, we have information that this has been started.
MR. BROWNE:—Mr. President, in the light of these developments now, do you have any plans of reassessing the foreign policy of the Philippines, of going away from one area and perhaps going to another?
THE PRESIDENT:—The foreign policy of the Philippines is a vital and growing thing. It is being reassessed continuously. So, the questions of reassessing does not arise at all. Every day or every week, because of developments in the international scene, we are reassessing the foreign policy of the Philippines. But the basic guidelines of the foreign policy remains the same.
For instance, we are anti-communist. We are allied with the Free World, not only by virtue of verbal commitments, but by solemn treaties and agreements.
We have a mutual defense pact with the United States; we have the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization. These cannot be discarded by the expedient of a unilateral reassessment of foreign policy.
Neither can the anti-communist orientation of our policy be changed overnight.
As I said, the Philippines is continuously reassessing its foreign policy.
MR. BROWNE:—One other question—in deference to the representatives of the four wire services here, as I read the foreign press, they play up the belligerent posture this situation with Sabah, or with Malaysia, as though both sides, are warlike, and in all of your statements, you have said over and over again your desire for peaceful settlement. The saber-rattling seems to come from Malaysia. Is there any way that you know of, any suggestion by which the Philippine posture of peace and willingness to sit down for a peaceful settlement of the issue can be communicated to the outside of the Philippines?
THE PRESIDENT:—We have taken steps to do this. We have met with the envoys in Manila of the ASPAC nations, the Pacific nations. We informed them of our intentions.
In the United Nations, and other missions abroad, we have instructed our representatives to inform their host governments of our intentions and purposes. It is my hope that the press and the media will help us in this endeavor.
MR. BROWNE:—Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT:—Talking about this warlike stance, I do not know exactly how we are being pictured abroad, in the light of the fact that while reports indicate that we have presently annexed Sabah, our postion is that we have not annexed Sabah.
On the contrary, it was the British who annexed Sabah in 1946. We opposed this annexation in 1950. We have continued to oppose it, and always through peaceful means. We have never attempted to utilize violence. We have also suppressed and prevented the more racial violent elements of our society from utilizing force, and is one of the reasons for the intelligence mission we sent out to Sulu to convince the Muslim elements allied with the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu from taking the law into their own hands in raiding Sabah. We are still trying to do this. We are preventing any groups and there was an order sometime ago, that if necessary, violence or rather force may be even used to stop such groups from going to Sabah. We have succeeded so far. I think we will be able to prevent any such armed infiltration to Sabah. In fact I have directed that in the meantime while this crisis and tension continues, travel of boats and persons from Sulu to Sabah, be discouraged.
MR. NANCE:—Mr. President, how would you describe, characterize, relationships with the United States at this particular moment?
THE PRESIDENT:—I would say that as I said before, the Philippine government seeks a clarification of some of the statements of Mr. McCloskey, spokesman of the state department. This statement of Mr. McCloskey, and its interpretations have caused disappointment among the leadership of our country as well as among our people.
It is my hope that a clarification will be issued, if it had not already been issued, in order to remove the fear and the suspicion that while outwardly the American government says it is neutral, inwardly and at heart it is not neutral.
MR. ALABASTRO:—Mr. President, you spoke a while ago of a 1950 bill, a resolution, which makes of this present law merely a reaffirmation?
MR. ALABASTRO:—Ah . . . why if there is already a congressional act, a resolution, why would there be a need for a new law? Is this a confession of the basic weakness of our claim?
THE PRESIDENT:—No. Because the United Nations requires its members-states to establish and describe the baselines of its national territory. And the Philippines has to comply with this requirement: it is now compelled to submit this description of its baselines.
The baselines can be described only by legislation, by Congress. This was the reason for the approval of Senate Bill 954.
The bill provided in its second paragraph that we shall not prejudice any future delineation of the baselines of Sabah, the territorial waters around Sabah, over which the Philippines has acquired dominion and sovereignty. That is the only clause that has aroused the controversy.
There is no weakness or deficiency in any of the acts of Congress. It is just that we are compelled to do so. Otherwise we may forfeit our claim.
MR. ALABASTRO:—One more question, Mr. President. What is the extent of the deployment of our troops in the South?
THE PRESIDENT:—It is sufficient for the defense of our territory, against any armed invasion, as well as against any possible subversion.
MR. ALABASTRO:—Thank you, Mr. President.
MR. MALIWANAG:—Sir, you spoke earlier that you don’t expect any hostilities to break out. Do you think leaders of both the Philippines and Malaysia would go to such an extent? But you also spoke of possible incidents. Could you elaborate on this, Mr President?
THE PRESIDENT:—Yes, for instance it is possible that some of the Muslim traders from Sulu may be travelling through waters patrolled by the Malaysian gunboats and, as it happened in the past, for one reason or another, for lack of identification or failure to stop when accosted, the gunboats may fire at these Filipinos. And the Filipinos may ask for protection from the Philippine Navy units in the area. You have an altercation, a violent altercation.
These are the incidents that may occur.
Then it is also possible that there may be disagreements as to where the actual boundary is between Taganak Island or North Borneo, or Sabah. And it may happen too, that a gunboat of the Philippines and a gunboat of Malaysia could be at the same point at any given time, questioning each other’s presence at the disputed waters. This again could result in an incident.
However, may I say that I have issued written orders to all commanders in the field that they will not fire their guns, that the air and the naval units will not fire their guns except in self-defense.
I repeat, their first alternative will always be withdrawal. They will fire their guns only when they have no other alternatives to protect their lives except to fire their guns.
MR. MALIWANAG:—In this connection, Mr. President, we just received a news report, it’s unconfirmed at this moment, that a Philippine ship loaded with Filipino workers bound for Sabah has been arrested and detained at Sandakan harbor by Malaysian authorities. Perhaps you may not have received . . . .
THE PRESIDENT:—No, I have not received any report on this matter. I suppose the report, if such an incident has happened, will come to me in as quick a time as possible. But these incidents, as I told you, are possible under the circumstances.
MR. MALIWANAG:—Can we expect that, if this report is correct, we will immediately make representations for their early release?
THE PRESIDENT:—Yes, as you know, we will take all courses open in diplomacy in order to protect our citizens.
MR. MARABUT:—Sir, you mentioned earlier that, if necessary, force will be used to check infiltrations by armed elements into Sabah.
THE PRESIDENT:—Armed elements from the Philippines will be prevented from being introduced into or entering Sabah.
MR. MARABUT:—Has there been any such case?
THE PRESIDENT:—No, as of now, no. But perhaps you remember as early as 1966, there were plans to do this by some of the supporters of the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu.
MR. ZUMEL:—Mr. President, this has been altogether a very serious discussion. I would like to ask the next question in levity.
THE PRESIDENT:— By all means.
MR. ZUMEL:— How does it feel to be hanged in effigy?
THE PRESIDENT:—I never felt anything. As you probably know, I have been maligned, libeled and attacked many times in my political career.
Well, for that matter, even when I was in the military, the Japanese called me all kinds of names, and so I’m not unused to this kind of, shall we say, violent language, and to this kind of violent demonstrations.
But certainly it is my hope that our conduct as a nation, individually as Filipinos, may not parallel this unusual demonstration of belief in their claim on Sabah.
MR. DE LA CRUZ:—Mr. President, a while back you mentioned the fact that we have to face the possibility of agents from both sides infiltrating into each others . . . .
THE PRESIDENT:—No. . . no. . . no. I didn’t say both sides. I said there are reports to the effect that agents infiltrated our territory and there are also claims on the other side by some Malaysian authorities that it is possible that some agents, supposedly coming from the Philippines, have infiltrated Malaysia and Sabah.
Offhand, I can tell you that we have no agents infiltrating Sabah. There are reports that there are Malaysian agents infiltrating into the Philippines.
MR. DE LA CRUZ:—I am interested in these Malaysian agents, Mr. President. How many agents have been spotted or are under surveillance?
THE PRESIDENT:—The reports claim that these agents are still operating in Mindanao and Sulu. And some have been identified. These reports are in the process of being confirmed.
MR. DE LEON:—Mr. President, do you think that the situation would have been better if we did not initiate the move to normalized relations with Malaysia, considering that at the time we restored diplomatic ties, Malaysia was at the throes of the military confrontation with Indonesia?
THE PRESIDENT:—Well, as you know, one of the guiding principles of the reestablishment of our foreign policy was, first of all, to reestablish a channel of communications between the Philippines and Malaysia. We were not on talking terms. How then could we have negotiated on the Sabah issue unless we normalized relations? At the same time, they were too busy with Indonesia, in the konfrontasi. They were not interested in talking about Sabah with us.
MR. DE LEON:—Did we not attempt to ask Malaysia at that time that in order that we may normalize relations, they must agree to the elevation of this case to the World Court?
THE PRESIDENT:—Yes, of course. And they said this should be the subject of negotiations.
MR. DE LEON:—During this restoration of diplomatic relations, Mr. President, did we have any dialogue with the Filipinos in Sabah?
THE PRESIDENT:—Yes, in the sense that we were in touch with some of the more responsible elements in Sabah.
MR. DE LEON:—Did we get information from them as to . . . .
THE PRESIDENT:—As to what?
MR. DE LEON:—Sentiments in Sabah . . . .
THE PRESIDENT:—Well, there were reports, there were surveys about Filipinos in Sabah. In order not to compromise the Filipinos in Sabah, we better not talk about it now. As you know, they are being screened by the Malaysian authorities.
MR. NANCE:—Mr. President, you mentioned that countries in the Far East and outside of Asia are interested in this, and possibly taking a part in resolving the problem. Are you optimistic, have you any signs of any party, is there a hope?
THE PRESIDENT:—I have great hopes that ultimately such intervention will succeed in bringing about a new peaceful negotiation or peaceful settlement of this conflict.
We have sufficiently defined our position on the Sabah conflict. The claim over Sabah has a historical and legal basis, so we will press our claim to Sabah. But we will do so in accordance with the peaceful modes outlined in solemn agreements between the Philippines and Malaysia. I refer specifically to Section 12 of the Manila Accord. This section provides that “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 North Borneo. The Ministers, and these are the ministers of the three countries of Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, took note of the Philippines claim and the right of the Philippines to continue to pursue it in accordance with international law and the principle of 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 rights thereunder. Moreover, in the context of their close association, the three countries agreed to exert their best endeavors to bring the claim to a just and expeditious solution, by peaceful means, such as negotiations, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, as well as other peaceful means of the parties’ “own choice, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations and the Bandung Declaration.”
This understanding has been reiterated during the exchanges of notes under President Macapagal in 1964. In the exchange of notes at the resumption of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Malaysia on June 3, 1966, in which the two governments—the Philippines and Malaysia—recognized the need of sitting together for the purpose of clarifying the Philippine claim to Sabah and discussing the means of settling it to the satisfaction of both parties in consonance with the Manila Accord of July 31, 1963, and the joint statement accompanying it.
I have said that we do not expect war with Malaysia. We will not start hostilities. We have solemnly declared in our Constitution that we renounce war as an instrument of national policy. We are one of the original signatories to the Charter of the United Nations, and we will abide by its covenants on the peaceful settlement of disputes. That is why our official position, (and I would like to repeat this at the risk of sounding like a broken record), we have adopted the official position that this issue should be brought to the international jurists of great prestige who can determine whether the Philippines has a legal claim to Sabah, or whether Malaysia should retain Sabah. We will abide by the judgment of the World Court.
It is unfortunate that several incidents have been taking place in Malaysia which, though hostile and provocative, do not seem to be quickly and properly dealt with by Malaysian authorities. We have just received the apology of the Malaysian government, and I hope that in the next few days reason will return into the public acts of Malaysian citizens.
I appeal also to our citizen to maintain decorum and dignity in the matter of this issue.
There is therefore the more reason why Filipinos themselves should continue to be calm in the face of these developments. We will not permit ourselves to be carried away by passion or sentiment. And I commend you my countrymen for keeping your peace. Again I am appealing to all of you to cooperate in proving that the Filipino is sufficiently mature to dominate any situation and face any trial which may come his way.
I hope that I have assured you in this interview that we have taken the necessary steps to ensure the security of our country from any act of aggression.
However, as I have said during this interview also, I do not see any act of aggression from any country whatsoever. We are merely adopting the usual precautions, in the event that there should be aggression.
I have informed you that the General Military Council had assessed the situation and have taken the steps demanded by it to protect our country against any attacks, subversive or aggressive invasion.
Our own troops are in place. But this is part of our normal self-defense set up. We have no plan to invade Sabah or even infiltrate it. We will prevent any armed element from being introduced into Sabah from the Philippines.
To the military authorities, to the troops manning our defense lines, I have given the order that they should act with utmost prudence: that they should exert every effort to avoid the occurrence of any incident or incidents that may lead to an armed conflict.
I have counselled that our troops should not take any aggressive action against any intruders, infiltrators, or other hostile elements, and to fire their guns only in self-defense.
There is no reason for precipitate action. Sobriety should inform our conduct. I want to assure you once again that the situation is fully under control.
Marcos, F. E. (1968). Remarks on radio-television chat, September 14, 1968. Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines, 64(40), 10021-J-10021-AA.