Malaysia urged to extend Sabah deadline

Posted at 02/25/13 9:35 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Malaysia should extend the deadline on the followers of a Sulu sultan who is claiming Sabah, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Monday.

DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario met with Malaysian Ambassador to Manila Dato' Mohd Zamri Bin Mohd Kassim on Monday to renew Manila's request to extend the deadline on the Filipinos who are engaged in a standoff in Sabah.

The DFA said the deadline extension is needed to convince the sultan's followers to leave the island voluntarily.

"We had a meeting this morning and we want to know some details regarding what is happening as far as the Filipinos in Sabah are concerned. We are still hoping they will come back to us with official confirmation," DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said.

Del Rosario also urged Kuala Lumpur to allow the Philippine ship to dock at Lahad Datu to bring food to the Filipinos and fetch those who want to go home.

"The current plan is for that ship to be at the border. The Malaysian government will bring the Filipinos to Lahad Datu to our ship which will be anchored off the border," Hernandez said.

"We sent the ship to Lahad Datu on a humanitarian mission. We are deeply concerned about the presence of five women and other civilians in the group, and we urge them to board the ship without delay and return home," del Rosario said.

"We are getting mixed signals so we asked that Tuesday midnight deadline be officially confirmed," del Rosario said in a text message.

The meeting also tackled the situation of Filipinos in Sabah.

"We were trying to see how we could end this peacefully and expeditiously so we want also to be able to bring our ship close to Lahad Datu for the movement of the people there and to bring them back home and other civilians there. We are trying to convince them to board the ship and go home as soon as possible," Hernandez said.

Del Rosario urged the Sultan's followers to return to the Philippines for their own safety.

He also promised that the Philippine government will address the issues the sultan has raised.