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SABAH STANDOFF | Philippines asks Malaysia to extend deadline for Kiram to recall forces

Reuters file photo of Jamalul Kiram III
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines has asked Malaysia to extend the deadline it gave to the followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III to leave Sabah or be rounded up and deported. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Philippines had requested that the Friday(February 22) deadline be extended to Tuesday (February 26). 

“[We] have requested extension of deadline to Tuesday in the afternoon. The Foreign Minister in view of work still in progress. He will getback to me,” DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario told reporters in a text message on Friday.

The DFA chief said that as of Friday afternoon, the Philippines had not yet received any word from the Malaysian government on whether it would grant the request. 

On Friday, Kiram said that while he welcomed President Benigno Aquino III's move to form a study group that would review the Philippines' claim to Sabah, he had no plan to recall his followers from the territory. 

Since February 9,  Kiram’s followers, about 400 people including 20 gunmen, have been holed up in Tanduao village in Sabah's remote coastal town of Lahad Datu. 

Kiram said he was prompted to send his people to Sabah after the Philippine government left them out of the framework agreement signed in October, which only catered to the interest of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

It was Malaysia, which took over Sabah in 1963, that brokered the peace talks between the Philippine government and the MILF. 

While the MILF respects the Kiram family's claim to Sabah and won't stand in the way of that claim, it "will not revive the claim," according to Khaled Musa, deputy chairperson of the MILF's committee on information.   

Kiram, who ran but lost in the 2007 senatorial elections, is the acknowledged leader of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo. The sultanate based in Southern Philippines once controlled North Borneo, which is now known as Sabah.   

The sultanate acquired Sabah as a prize for helping the Sultan of Brunei against his enemies.

According to the sultante, it did not relinquish its sovereignty over Sabah and only leased the territory to the Briitish North Borneo Company starting in 1878.