Archive for the ‘Philippines’ Category


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Sabah Chief Minister Tan Sri Musa Aman said the state government in no uncertain terms reject any claim by the Philippines on the state.

“I have made our stand on this matter before. Let me once again clearly state that we do not recognise or acknowledge any claim by the Philippines or any other country on Sabah,” Musa said.

He was responding to remarks made by a member of the Philippines Consultative Committee, Aquilino Pimentel Jr, which was reported in the media recently.

It was reported that Pimentel, who was appointed to review the 1987 Constitution, said he would propose the inclusion of Sabah in the Philippines as part of the country’s shift to a federal system of government.

He said Sabah is part of Malaysia and has chosen to be and would continue to be a part of the sovereign nation since the state became party to its formation.

”The people in Sabah choose to be in the state because it is in Malaysia. We have been enjoying peace, stability and economic prosperity within Malaysia,” Musa said in a statement today.

Earlier, Malaysia rejected the proposal by a member of a Filipino government committee to amend the Philippine Constitution to include Sabah as the “13th federal state” of the Philippines.

“Malaysia is aware of remarks made by Mr Aquilino Pimentel Jr, a member of the Philippines’ Consultative Committee, which appeared in the media on the claim on Sabah recently,” said Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman in a press statement.

“The Government of Malaysia reiterates its position that Malaysia does not recognise and will not entertain any claims by any party on Sabah. Sabah is recognised by the United Nations and the international community as part of Malaysia since the formation of the Federation on 16 September 1963,” said Anifah.

“Therefore, statements such as these will only expose the ignorance of history and international law of those who make them, as well as potentially harming the excellent bilateral relations which Malaysia and the Philippines currently enjoy,” Anifah added.

Aquilino Pimentel Jr is a member of a 25-member government consultative committee tasked with reviewing and proposing amendments to the Philippines 1987 Constitution. A key proposal is switching to a system of federal government from its current model where power is centralised.

“There should be a way that is acceptable under international laws to assert our claim to Sabah,” Pimentel, a former senator, told local ABS-CBN News network in an interview on Tuesday.

Pimentel’s proposal for the new federal government includes 12 federal states – Northern Luzon, Central Luzon, Southern Luzon, Bicol, Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas, Western Visayas, Minparom, Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao, Bangsamoro, Metro Manila.

He reportedly said the government can add Sabah as the 13th federal state later on.

In 2013, some 200 men from the southern Philippines landed in Sabah and battled Malaysian security forces for more than a month in a bid to stake an ancient claim of the territory for the Sultanate of Sulu.

Scores died in the fighting. At least two Malaysian police officers were beheaded by the invaders.

Sabah on Borneo island joined Malaya, Sarawak and Singapore to form Malaysia in 1963.

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Leaders of smaller, poorer countries are much more vulnerable to the ambitions of a country with deep pockets like China. After being thrown out of power, leaders in a number of countries have been investigated for accepting bribes from Chinese companies. The former president of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, has been accused of accepting bribes from China Harbour Engineering Company, a subsidiary of state-owned China Communications Construction Company. Rajapaksa’s tenure saw several high-profile Chinese investments in Sri Lanka. Many of those, including an airport and a seaport in Hambantota—the home base of Rajapaksa—have proven to be commercial non-starters. In Nigeria, just three days before exiting office, former president Goodluck Jonathan approved an out-of-court settlement—now being probed by US agencies—between Addax Petroleum (owned by Chinese oil giant Sinopec) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp., saving the former millions of dollars.

In 2012, the husband of former Philippine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was arrested on charges of accepting bribes to push a deal between the Philippine government and the Chinese telecom company ZTE. Mohammad Nasheed, the leader-in-exile of Maldivian opposition, has accused President Abdulla Yameen of corruption in leasing out islands to foreign countries. India, too, was concerned about the Yameen government leasing out the Feydhoo Finolhu island to a Chinese company at a throwaway price without competitive bidding. Known for his proximity to China, Yameen again surprised New Delhi in November last year by passing a free trade agreement with China through the Maldivian parliament in an emergency session called at short notice with most of the opposition members unavailable to attend.

As China pushes its ambitious trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, such sweetheart deals can be expected in greater numbers. India’s smaller neighbours are especially vulnerable, but New Delhi can do little as it cannot match Beijing’s largesse.

The scale at which China is using its capital for securing political influence is unprecedented

 


 

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We Can’t Talk About the Terrorists:
An Ethnography of Silence in the East Coast of Sabah


by Vilashini Somiah
20 December 2017

 

As an anthropologist, I see my work as necessary in gaining deeper and more insightful perspectives of how communities work and find meaning in their own existence which includes its inherent tensions and contradictions. It is an employment that requires thorough, objective observation, and simultaneously expects the ethical preservation of agency of those you study. And although I’ve always acknowledged the importance of studying Sabah’s suppressed narratives, it was only as an anthropologist that I found the intellectual fulfilment I so desired. It is a field that I’ve been in keen apprenticeship of for over seven years. This article highlights one of those narratives from my most recent time spent in the field.

My good friend Indah* and I were lounging on the veranda of her beautiful colonial home in Sandakan one hot April afternoon in 2016 when the conversation of alien danger began; the idea that foreigners are themselves the biggest cause of danger and malice in their host country. Although both of us were mostly unconvinced by this premise, our talk was solely inspired by the recent Abu Sayyaf sightings in Sabah waters, linked to the presence of hundreds of thousands of irregular migrants in Sabah.

Indah tells me her frustration on the matter boils down to how badly the matter is handled, which is due to the lack of trust authorities have for locals in the East coast of Sabah. “Vils” as she often calls me, “decent people live here. Real people just trying to survive. This town isn’t the danger zone but it’s been labelled one. Politicians think they’re protecting us, but we just get brushed aside. We should be involved too, you know.” I have always appreciated how Indah speaks so passionately about Sandakan. She, like many other residents I’ve met, feels deeply for the town, one that is rich in natural resources and history. I am empathetic and ask “Why can’t something be done about agency and leadership here?” Indah clicks her tongue in irritation.” No one wants to listen to the east coasters, Vils. They just think we’re sleeping with the enemy.”

Something in her tone made me believe her. In retrospect, I must have heard it on repeat from a variety of voices. My time spent conducting ethnographic fieldwork in the town had introduced me to many other participants that had in one way or the other highlighted the frustration of being politically invisible despite the active roles they take in combating possible extremism in their home. The conversations that follow were not easy to capture; not for the participants lack of eloquence, but simply due to their inability to openly trust, and thus, such frank exchanges about terrorism in Sabah are rare. It is my sincerest hope that this article is able to capture just an essence of the honesty and pride of the participants I’ve met.

 

Teaching for Safety

Teacher Mir*, a 31-year-old Sabahan of Orang Sungai descent, has dedicated almost a decade of his life to the education of undocumented children in Sandakan. Every morning before sun break, Mir has his breakfast at the church mess hall and bids his family goodbye before heading off 15 kilometres by van into the palm oil estates within the district. The journey takes much longer than it should as roads are potholed by lorries and hardly ever fixed.

Similar in vein to hundreds of learning centres throughout the east coast of Sabah, Mir’s learning centre aims to provide the most basic of elementary education for children otherwise rejected from our local schooling system. This particular learning centre hosts over 200 children and, together with Mir, are taught by 11 other teachers from the Sandakan and Kinabatangan district. One Tuesday morning sometime February this year, he invited me for an after-school tea session at the canteen. Conversations with Mir were always so engaging because he never self-censored and I appreciated that. As the discipline master, Mir has a reputation of never mincing his words and a stern demeanour. On his way over to the canteen, he waves his rotan (cane) at the children to behave but because school was over, the children run away from him, giggling.

We talked mostly about his students; sustaining children through the six years of education requires plenty of effort on the parent’s part but job losses, village raids or deportation can hinder them from ever returning the following year. Before gulping the last mouthful of cold tea, I ask how he finds the motivation to continue teaching in such unpredictable conditions. He tells me, “I teach here to fight off terrorism for Sabah”. I found his dramatic answer surprising but altogether humbling. How does teaching counter the violence from the sea, I ask. By now our jovial chatter has given way to a strange heaviness and Mir continues:

“Aku bilang sama anak-anak, jangan durang jadi pangganas. Berabis kami cikgu-cikgu mengajar di skolah, ada pulak dia mau main timbak-timbak? Bardosa bah. Pangganas jadi bagitu krana teda durang dikasi pendidikan atau paluang dalam hidup. Walaupun sikit sja pemberian kami, biar ikhlas mau kasi anak-anak ini masa depan. Tapi Puji Tuhan, segala keringat kami ada juga untungnya. Teda budak-budak kami pernah terjebak dengan racun sabagitu.” (I told the children, don’t become terrorists. The teachers here give their all to educate them and they want to go around shooting people? That’s a sin. People become terrorists because they weren’t provided education or opportunities. We can’t offer much, but at least these children now have a future. Praise God, our hard work has paid off. None of our students have ever joined such a poisonous act.)
Several of the teachers feel the same way. They see their work as an effort in countering terrorist activities in Sabah that have grown significantly present with the years. I acknowledge the importance of this view and suggest the teachers spread the word to other willing Sabahans, but they are hesitant. Mir’s 25-year-old colleague, Yasmin*, shares with me her thoughts:
“Di Sabah, paling sensitip punya isu ini lah- Abu Sayap atau ISIS. Pasal urang takut kalau-kalau durang sudah disini kah? Anak- anak di skolah mimang ndak salah, tapi mana tau kalau kawan atau kaluarga durang yang pendatang mungkin terjebak? Lagipun, kalau cakap kuat-kuat pun, nanti ditangkap krajaan bah. Jadi, diam-diam sajalah kami.” (In Sabah, the most sensitive topic is that of the Abu Sayyaf or ISIS. Perhaps people are afraid if they’re already here. The children here are innocent, but who knows if family or friends who are also irregular migrants might be involved? And if we talked about it publicly, the government might arrest us. It’s better to just keep quiet.)
Learning centres for undocumented children are constantly under the monitor of the state and will receive regular visits for an update on local problems and information on parents. This is to be expected and the teachers have always complied and given their fullest cooperation where it is ethical. Yet, Mir and his colleagues feel that no matter how they may contribute to the safety of Sabah, no one else, including himself, is brave enough to discuss the terrorist problem openly. “I want to talk about the kidnappings or Abu Sayyaf, but I don’t dare. Because we teach these children, we might be accused of knowing inside information, but I don’t. I’m frustrated because we feel we cannot discuss this openly in our own state.”
 

One Town, Two Worlds

I encountered a similar stance from Sakinul*, a 42-year-old Suluk businessman, and one of the first friends I made when I began work in Sandakan. For over 26 years, he has made a living from buying cheap fish and shellfish from the market and reselling them in estates and slums on the outer periphery of town. Communities that he frequents are that of irregular migrants, many of whom would not dare venture into town for fear of getting arrested.On a daily basis, he is assisted by his second wife, an irregular migrant from Zamboanga and although he himself is Malaysian, their four children were given foreign birth certificates and told to return to the Philippines if they ever wanted to be documented. Sakinul tells me he worked very hard to make it happen but the costs (and risks) were too high. Thus, the children continue to live with the same irregular status as their mother. Due to this predicament, they are teased by their documented neighbours for being potential terrorists and this never fails to break their father’s heart.

Sakinul is in no way an isolated case. In fact, my time in the field has introduced me to a large number of Malaysian Sabahans who have or are currently cohabiting and leading domestic lives with irregular migrants or undocumented persons. On a cultural level (despite religious practice), a town like Sandakan is able to accept such union despite knowing the repercussions. However, the legal implications have not escaped them and I find many marriages between citizens and irregular migrants often living low-key lives, in hopes of avoiding the prying eyes and directed questions of the authority. However large these numbers may be, these family units remain vulnerable to accusations of threats and state security. Yet fascinatingly, it is these very same Sabahans who seem most invested in ridding Sabah of its terrorist problems. Similar to that of teachers at learning centres, their effort to combat extremist activists is a result of their close relationships with members of the irregular migrant community.

As such, Sakinul, one of my more trusted informants, would tell me via text of activities in town that I might be interested in. In the most recent of news, an Abu Sayyaf leader and his members were captured in Kuala Lumpur and never one to hide his disgust towards terrorism, Sakinul is frank about the lack of elucidation in the news. “I personally believe the reports are not complete,” he says, “people have so many questions about them. Can you believe they were from Sandakan? I’m suspicious of this! But we have to be careful with what we say around the market, or we might look suspicious too.” “But you could open a good discussion about this.” I mentioned over the phone. Exasperatedly, he tells me:

“Apa bulih bawak barbincang oh? Kau pikir pulis mau kami bising-bisingkah? Ini Sabah style bah, kalau barang ndak bagus, jangan bukak mulut kau. Duduk diam-diam, tapuk-tapuk sampai round two. Kalau kau Suluk, berbini pandatang macam aku, kau cakap-cakap, di tangkap lagi kamu. Tapi, bila datang lagi pangganas mau putung kapala, start lagi lah – “Sabah bahayalah, kami bangsa abu sayap lah”. Urang pikir kami ni mau kah macam ni?” (What can we ever discuss? Do you think the police want us making noise? This is the Sabah style, if things aren’t good, don’t open your mouth. Sit quietly and hide till round two starts. If you are Suluk, and married to a migrant like me, and you talk openly, you will be arrested. But when the terrorists come to behead people, then the labels start again: “Sabah is dangerous, we share the same race as the Abu Sayyaf”. Do people think we like this?)
 

Deserving A Say

With Indah, Sakinul, Mir and Yasmin in mind, I must stress a respect for the counter narrative to this claim; that militant terrorism has had very little impact on the state of Sabah and will only succeed if we live in fear of the foreign ‘other’. In fact, despite recent headliners, towns throughout the east coast have done better than expected in its efforts to continue in normalcy. During my fieldwork from 2016- mid 2017, there were approximately five incidents involving terrorists in Sandakan and even with that, the chances of a local or tourist becoming a victim of terrorism was still rather slim. With its thriving ecotourism and maritime industry, Sandakan has attracted many from other districts to eke out a decent livelihood despite ongoing militant activities in the water borders. And on top of everything else, the state has repeatedly reminded Sabahans in the east coast that their safety against terrorism will continue to be a priority of the Malaysian government.

Regardless of political affiliation, many Sabahans tell me they sincerely appreciate the Malaysian government’s initiation of the ESSCOM (the Eastern Sabah Security Command) which protects the most vulnerable of areas from Kudat to Tawau. Yet, residents particularly in the east coast tend to suspend trust till the next major incident occurs, in silence. Throughout the years of researching irregular migrants in the east coast of Sabah, I’ve observed how discussing terrorism with poorer, working class local Malaysian residents reveals an array of unsaid insecurities that come across more powerless than most.

As it seems, the bigger issue to this is not why Sabah is a hotbed for terrorism but more so why there isn’t a greater collective ability to do more about it? Despite many state structures in place, and some grassroot attempts at eliminating future terrorists from emerging in Sabah, the already poor and sidelined Sabahans in the east coast lack the belief that there is an avenue to voice their concerns and anxieties openly and safely. Further exacerbating this is of course the social closeness between legitimate residents and their irregular ones, raising even more suspicion and distrust amongst security forces monitoring the ESSZONE.

From my conversations with Sabahans’ in the east coast, they see the state as dismissive and even punitive in addressing any criticism (constructive or otherwise). Even with the various state endorsed security apparatus in place, these communities still feel most at risk in the event of an attack or kidnapping. This is further exacerbated by the fact that these Sabah communities, both irregular and legitimate are never in isolation. Notwithstanding the mainstream narrative, Malaysian Sabahans particularly in the east coast have not and cannot lead a life separate nor distinctively different from that of their migrant neighbours, which makes vocalising these concerns and insecurities even harder and more dangerous.

Sabah shares with the Philippines one of the more volatile corners of the Malay Archipelago and coupled with the taboo subject of hosting approximately two million of Sabah’s irregular residents has not made solving the impending terrorist problem any easier. When public conversations are held on desires and intent for safety and security, they are usually held amongst the more privileged of us. But for thousands of non-urban, working class Sabahans living simpler lives, this freedom is imaginary and their agency is in needing to say more about their insecurities whenever and however necessary.

The first and most necessary step to figuring out the considerable human problem in Sabah is for the promotion of grassroot discussion. As long as we privilege more powerful and louder views than theirs, we dismiss ideas, knowledges and experiences from Sabahans like Mir and Sakinul that can and will assist in combating a slew of other neglected social issues including that of violent extremism.
*Names have been altered as per requested by participants.

 

Vilashini Somiah is a scholar, writer and filmmaker. Born in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, she has always had a keen interest for underrepresented narratives in Borneo and has focused a great amount of time understanding the different perspectives of these voices and their motivations.

Her Phd research is centred on issues of deportation, irregular migration and socio-political mobility surrounding the Sulu Sea.



KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Security Working Committee (JKKN) has decided to reopen the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZone) for commercial activities effective Feb 1.

Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman said the JKKN meeting, which he chaired today, also agreed to allow the Customs, Immigration, Quarantine and Security (CIQS) Complex in Kudat to resume operations for the route to Palawan, Southern Philippines on the same date.

“However, all commercial activities, namely transshipment and normal trade must adhere to the Transshipment Activity Improvement Fixed Operating Regulations issued by the Sabah JKKN.

“On the other hand, Kudat CIQS will operate by observing its standard operating procedures as guidelines for all agencies and relevant parties,” he said in a statement here today.

Musa also said all trade activities involving Indonesian sea products by the fishermen or the coalition of Tawau Fishermen’s Association was now status quo but the landings of the products must be done at jetties or legal locations as coordinated by the Fisheries Department.

“On the ban of pump boats, JKKN decided that the ruling would continue to take effect on status quo which means the use and its ownership are only allowed for Malaysian citizens. Stern action will be taken against non-citizens,” he added. — Bernama

 

(The Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZONE) is a security zone in the Malaysian state of Sabah that was launched by the Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak on 25 March 2013 following the persistent attacks by Abu Sayaff pirates and militants from the southern Philippines that occurred in the eastern part of Sabah especially after the 2013 Lahad Datu standoff.

[1] It includes the districts of Kudat, Kota Marudu, Pitas, Beluran, Sandakan, Kinabatangan, Lahad Datu, Kunak, Semporna and Tawau.

[2] The Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) is the main enforcement authority for ESSZONE, chaired by Datuk Seri Musa Aman.)


A total of 372 undocumented migrants from the Philippines were repatriated to Zamboanga by ferry from Sandakan yesterday.

Sabah National Security Council director Rodzi Md Saad said the repatriated individuals were all males, aged between six and 62 years old and they were previously detained at Kota Kinabalu temporary detention centre, he said in a statement today. Since Nov 15, a total 3,765 Filipinos were deported by ferry, he said.

From Jan 1, this year until today, a total of 22,213 Filipinos, Indonesians and other nationalities were deported to their respective countries.

He also said since 1990 until today, as many as 552,154 undocumented migrants have been repatriated and returned voluntarily to their countries from Sabah.

According to Rodzi the repatriation efforts of the illegals are in line with the government’s commitment to continue to root out illegal immigrants from Sabah.

– Bernama


Chief Minister Musa Aman welcomed the decision by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to allow Malaysian vessels to enter the republic’s waters in hot pursuit of kidnappers.

“This is a positive development towards curbing kidnapping incidents in Sabah,” he said in a statement.

He said granting Malaysian security forces the permission to pursue kidnappers in Philippine waters would increase the chances of nabbing them.

The decision was announced after Duterte’s meeting with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in Putrajaya yesterday.

Musa said Indonesian President Jokowi Widodo’s decision to allow a similar move was a step in the right direction towards curbing cross border crimes.

The chief minister said he was also pleased to note that Duterte has agreed to the gradual repatriation of Filipinos who are staying illegally in Sabah.

“We hope for continued cooperation with both our neighbours, the Philippines and Indonesia, to maintain the peace and security and good bilateral and trade relations,” he added.

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Bombala farmer, Hans Berekoven, and team of Malaysian nationals raised the Malaysian flag on the Luconia Shoals, 84 nautical miles of the coast of Borneo, Sarawak, while observed by the China Coast Guard.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-08/luconia-shoals-malaysia-flag-raising-incident-china-coast-guard/7681752

When he is not on his farm in the high country of south-east New South Wales, Hans Berekoven is an amateur marine archaeologist recovering artefacts from a shipwreck for a Malaysian museum.

He said during one trip, he had been harassed by a Chinese Coast Guard vessel that had been stationed off Luconia Shoals for the past few years.

The shoals are a cluster of reefs and a tiny island called the Luconia Breakers, 84 nautical miles off Malaysia’s Borneo coast.

“They were trying to push us out. When we arrived there and started diving, they would up-anchor and sort of circle around us, sometimes really close. It was a sort of gentle intimidation,” Mr Berekoven said.

China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei all have competing claims over the South China Sea.

The dispute has been a major flashpoint in the region, with accusations of China building artificial islands and damaging reef systems.

An international tribunal recently ruled China had violated the Philippines’ economic and sovereign rights as defined by the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention.

Since 1947, China has claimed a vast area of islands in the South China Sea, including the Luconia Shoals.

Professor Clive Schofield, an authority on marine jurisdictional issues, said that at 84 nautical miles from the Borneo coast, the Luconia Shoals were clearly on Malaysia’s continental shelf, and well within Malaysia’s 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as defined by the Law of the Sea Convention.

“So if there’s any jurisdiction and rights over the feature [the Luconia Shoals], then they are Malaysian and not Chinese,” Professor Schofield said.

Mr Berekoven said he was angered by damage he alleged was being caused by the China Coast Guard vessel anchoring on the reef.

“She’s got a massive anchor chain. Every time the wind changes or the current changes that big anchor chain is just making a hell of a mess of that reef,” he said.

Mr Berekoven chose Malaysia’s independence day, August 31 last year, to protest against the situation by raising the Malaysian flag on the tiny island.

It is the first time the video of the incident has been released.

“I took the curator of the museum that we’re working with, and a couple of other Malaysian friends, and a journalist from the Borneo Post,” he said.

They mounted a stainless steel flagpole into a cement footing and raised the Malaysian flag, as the China Coast Guard vessel watched from about 500m offshore.

“They must have got on the blower to Beijing and Beijing must have got on the blower to Kuala Lumpur, because suddenly there was a big kerfuffle in KL,” Mr Berekoven said.

The next morning, a Malaysian aircraft flew low over Mr Berekoven’s boat and the island.

“A Malaysian coast guard vessel was despatched. Went out there and unbolted the flag,” he said.

“It’s absolutely absurd. It’s 88 miles, well within the 200 mile economic exclusion zone, and they’ve forced the Malaysians to take the flag down — their flag, asserting their authority, their sovereignty.”

Professor Schofield said he was not surprised at Malaysia’s action, because Malaysia had traditionally dealt with issues by taking a quiet diplomatic route with China and avoiding public conflict.

Tensions over oil, gas and fisheries rights

He said tensions in the South China Sea focused on the wealth of oil and gas resources in the region, and freedom of navigation in the busy maritime trade routes.

“However, the importance of the fisheries is often overlooked,” Professor Schofield said.

“The South China Sea has been estimated to provide around 12 per cent of global fisheries catch.

“It provides fisheries which are vital to food security within the region, where potentially hundreds of millions of people have their primary protein requirements met by the fish from these waters.”

Professor Schofield said a rare exception to Malaysia’s quiet diplomacy with China occurred earlier this year when about 100 Chinese fishing boats arrived at the Luconia Shoals.

“For Malaysia there was a relatively strong reaction calling in the Chinese ambassador to protest against that,” he said.

Malaysia’s national security minister Shahidan Kassim was reported by the Bernama news agency as announcing the despatch of assets from the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, and that the navy had been sent to the area near the Luconia Shoals to monitor the situation.

Professor Schofield said such an action underlined the importance of the fishery to Malaysia.

He said fisheries in the region were over-fished and under extreme stress with fish stocks declining.

“You have overlapping claims and rival fisheries fleets and no unified or rational management of those stocks. The potential for a collapse in the fisheries is a real and present one,” he said.

Mr Berekoven is preparing to return to Luconia Shoals to resume recovering artefacts from the nearby shipwreck.


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Sabah has never recognized or acknowledged any claim by the Philippines or any other quarter on the state, said Chief Minister Musa Aman today.

He said Sabah has never recognised or acknowledged any such claim and will continue to be a part of the Malaysian federation.

“Let me clearly state that Sabah is in Malaysia and has chosen to be and will continue to be a part of this sovereign nation since its formation,” he said in response to Philippines incoming President Rodrigo Duterte’s intention to pursue the Sabah claim.

Musa added that the people of Sabah are enjoying peace, stability and economic prosperity within Malaysia.

“Our allegiance is to the Malaysian flag. The claim is irrelevant,” he added.

Earlier, Duterte was quoted by the Philippine Star as saying that he will pursue the Philippines’ claim on Sabah.

Duterte also said he will recognise the claim of the Sulu sultanate as “what has been the policy will always be the policy of the government, especially those for the interests of the country”.


TUN MUSTAPHA MARINE PARK FINALLY GAZETTED; PROTECTED SABAH MARINE PARKS NOW TOTAL 2 MILLION HECTARES OF CORAL REEF, MANGROVE, SEA-GRASS AND PRODUCTIVE FISHING GROUNDS COVERING MORE THAN 50 ISLAND.

The State Government has officially gazetted 898,762.76 hectares in the northern seas of Sabah as the TUN MUSTAPHA MARINE PARK.The move comes after more than 13 years of preparatory work led by Sabah Parks with government agencies, local communities, international partners and with support from non-governmental organisation i.e WWF-Malaysia.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun tweeted the new marine park, Thursday, as being the biggest in the country and the newest conservation initiative carried out by the State Government.


“Its done! Tun Mustapha Marine Park in northern Sabah is gazetted,” he said, accompanied by a photo of the state gazette dated May 19.

The park is located off Kudat, Kota Marudu and Pitas right up to the Straits of Balabac, where the Sulu Sea and South China Sea meet in the northern part of Sabah.

With the declaration, the size of protected marine parks in Sabah now stretches to about two million hectares.

“Efforts to gazette the park has been carried out through consultations with various parties with interest in the area,” he said.

The area covers 50 islands and includes the three main ones of Pulau Banggi, Pulau Balambangan and Pulau Malawali with more than 180,000 people living in the coastal areas and islands.

It was earlier reported that such a move was the only means of protecting sharks in the area due to the reluctance of the Federal Government to legislate a ban on shark hunting.

” The area is rich in various marine life and located within the coral triangle covering waters within Luzon Island in the Philippines, Bali in Indonesia and the Solomon Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

” The triangle area has over 500 species of corals that is the habitat of numerous marine life. This includes 243 invertebrate species, 550 fish species, four species of turtles, dugongs, crocodiles and sharks,” he said.

As an open marine park, the Tun Mustapha Marine Park will be managed through a collaboration between various bodies involving both government and non-governmental organisations, as well as local communities, said Masidi.

Towards this end, he said the areas are divided into six zones, involving a conservation zone, community-use-zone, multi-use zone, commercial fishing zone, special fish management zone and aquaculture zone, adding that the park was gazetted under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Category Six.

This involves protected areas being set up to conserve ecosystems and habitats, together with associated cultural values and traditional natural resource management systems.

The marine park was first proposed in 2000, with the State Government approving its establishment on March 5, 2003.

The gazetting of the park had undergone various stages like public hearings from 2012 to 2015 as well as public consultations on the park zoning from 2012 to 2013.

The framework of management plan was drafted in July 2012 and was completed along with its gazetting plans, with the government planning to launch the new marine park in June this year.

Tun Mustapha Park is evidence of Musa Aman’s commitment to the Coral Triangle Initiative and contribution towards meeting the Aichi Biodiversity Target of at least 10% marine areas protected and managed.