Philippines seeks peaceful solution to Borneo stand-off

The Philippines on Saturday called for a peaceful resolution to a tense stand-off between Malaysian forces and a group of gunmen claiming to be followers of the heir of a former Borneo sultan.

The group, estimated at 200 with dozens believed to be armed, landed by boat near the Borneo town of Lahad Datu in Malaysia's Sabah state from the neighbouring Philippines on Tuesday.

Police say the group has declared itself followers of a former Philippine-based Islamic sultanate that once controlled parts of Borneo, including the standoff site, and is refusing to leave Malaysian territory.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino's spokeswoman Abigail Valte said Saturday the safety of the Filipinos was the government's main concern as Malaysian armed forces and police have locked down the area.

"The primary concern now is their safety and to resolve the incident peacefully," Valte said in a radio interview in Manila.

She said the Philippines had received assurance from Malaysia that the government would encourage the group, which Manila has yet to identify, to leave the area peacefully.

Sabah police chief Hamza Taib was quoted by local dailies as saying police were in negotiations with the group and expected the stand-off to be resolved "very soon with the group returning to their home country".

Malaysian police have set up a series of road blocks along the route leading from Lahad Datu through palm oil plantations to the remote village where the gunmen are. Marine police were also patrolling the sea.

An AFP photographer was denied access some 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the stand-off site.

The group involved in the impasse has claimed to be adherents of the former Sulu sultanate, a regional power centre until its demise a century ago.

A Philippine military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP Friday the group was demanding an increase in the nominal amount Malaysia pays, under a long-standing agreement, to the heirs of the sultanate for possession of Sabah.

Sabah has a history of incursions by armed Philippine groups, and the prickly situation could test ties between the neighbours, who are fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

In the worst incident, guerrillas of the Islamic militant Abu Sayyaf movement seized 21 mostly Western tourists at the Sabah scuba diving resort of Sipadan in 2000. They were taken to Philippine islands and later ransomed.

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Book chronicles efforts for PWD-friendly polls VERA Files - The Inbox
    Book chronicles efforts for PWD-friendly polls

    By Melissa Luz Lopez, VERA Files A lot have been done but much still need to be done for a hassle-free  participation of  Persons with Disabilities in elections,according to a book published by The Asia Foundation (TAF) and supported by … Continue reading → …

  • The other side of Palawan Ellen Tordesillas, Contributor - The Inbox
    The other side of Palawan

    By Ellen T. Tordesillas Mention Palawan and what comes to mind are Underground River and El Nido in the northern side of this richly-blessed province from its capital, Puerto Princesa. Three weeks ago, we went to the southern side- in … Continue reading → …

  • What can void a new car warranty? James Deakin - Wheel Power
    What can void a new car warranty?

    "I was denied warranty once for changing my horn!" One very annoyed reader wrote. "I was told that placing a backup camera will void my warranty" said another. The others are best left in my private inbox as Yahoo! have a swear jar in the office that I do not feel like donating this week's pay to. Continue reading → …

POLL
Loading...
Poll Choice Options