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Spratly islands, just like Sabah, belong to the Sultanate of Sulu

Sultan Kiram I (right) with his late father (on left) Photo © Art Sampana
Sultan Kiram I (right with eye glasses) with his late father (on left) Photo © Art Sampana

MALOLOS City (Bulacan) — Sultan Abdullah Caparas Kiram I of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo has laid claim over the disputed Spratly islands saying the contested group of islands between the Philippines and China actually belongs to the sultanate since the year 1360.

In an interview with Beyond Deadlines, the Sultan Kiram I argued that both the Philippines and China could not lay claim over the Spratly Islands because that belongs to the Sultanate of Sulu.  He said China is partially correct when it claimed that the Philippines cold not claim the Spratly’s because it (China) started occupying the islands in the 1700’s when there is no Philippine entity yet.

“How on earth the Philipines will claim Spratly Islands as its own when China is occupying the islands since 1700 – the year when the Philipines and even the United Nations never existed?” Kiram I asked.

However, he added that China on the other hand could not also lay claim over the islands since the Sultanate already laid claim over it some 400 years earlier. He, however, conceded that China has been given permission to use the islands for only in three instances —  1) as a shelter during bad weather; 2) as fishing ground for provisions, and 3) as a rest area during long journeys.

Kiram I added that there are documents to prove his claims.

At the same time, the sultan reiterated that Sabah also belongs to the Sultanate.

“North Borneo/Sabah was a gift from the Sultan of Brunei in 1760 when the army of Sulu Sultanate assisted the Brunei Sultan in quelling the civil war there,” Kiram I said.

He also mentioned the 1939 Mackaskie Ruling as further historical and legal basis for the Kiram’s claim of ownership over Sabah.

Sultan Kiram I’s, whose mother is a Maloleña and father, the late Sultan Esmail D. Kiram, a Tausug; said he  has some idea how to resolve the issue surrounding Sabah and the Spratly’s without involving any bloodshed. He, however, refused to elaborate stressing that he will only discuss the matter with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

Sultan Kiram I was recently proclaimed as the 1st Sultan of Royal Supreme Sultanate of Sulu Archipelago and North Borneo Islands.

Arturo Sampana
Art C. Sampana is a former correspondent of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. He is a writing fellow at the Likhaan: University of the Philippines Institute of Creative Writing. His works were published in the Wall Street Journal (Hong Kong and New York Editions), Philippine Daily Express, Inquirer, and Republika among others. He is currently a correspondent of The Manila Times, the country's oldest newspaper.

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