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The battle began shortly after the Philippines declared war on Malaysia on November 24, 2008. The battle started with Philippine naval forces attacking Malaysian patrols around Sabah and the Sulu Archipelago. However, because Malaysia had a superior navy to that of the Philippines, and as self-sufficient navy, they were able to repulse the invasion, eventually pushing the Philippine naval forces up as far as Zamboanga del Norte.
With the Sulu Sea now under majority-Malaysian control, vessels transported Malaysian troops for a land invasion of the southern Philippines. However, due to stubborn resistance - these were quickly routed by a mix of Filipino soldiers and guerillias.
Despite the Malaysian victory, Philippine land forces were successful in destroying and damaging three Malaysian vessels, killing off most of soldiers inside.