21st Century Crisis

July 2, 2015


Jejomar Binay speaks about the Sabah issue

- Today, there has been talks in the capital of the Philippines of doing what some consider the unthinkable: letting Sabah go, meaning that Sabah would no longer be Philippine territory.

What? So let's clear things up here, Filipinos spent decades talking and venting about Sabah being rightfully Philippine territory. It had been decades of heated talks with Philippine and Malaysian politicians, insurgencies conducted by terrorists from the Sulu Archipelago all for endless stalemates. Now, the Philippines, which had to fight for Sabah from 2008-2012 (nearly losing to the Malaysian forces) is now simply getting ready to throw all that away?

But one must look at the practicality and the reality of the issue, in the three-some years that Sabah was existed as Philippine territory, and seeing the name "Philippines" after the comma in front of every Sabahan city's name, it has been nothing but pure disaster, in almost every aspect - be it economics, politics or national issues.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak had simply predicted it back in 2010, "The Philippine acquisition of Sabah will prove to be a complete disaster. We'll just sit back and watch it unfold."

So let's have at it. A stable nation can't exist without a good economy, and the acquisition of Sabah simply proved to be nothing more but an economic burden for the Philippines. While the Philippine government enacted a one-year program where both Malaysian ringgits and Philippine pesos would be accepted in Sabah, it wasn't enough. As Malaysian territory, Sabah's economy was bad enough as it earned the nickname the "poorest state".

Malaysian businesses were devastated, and many former successful businessmen had to flee to West Malaysia, or many went to southern neighbor Indonesia looking for job opportunities, which didn't exactly work mentioning that Indonesia allied themselves with the Philippines in their war against Malaysia.

Then comes the people and the society. The ugly reality is that, the people of Sabah never wanted to become part of
Sabah 2

May we see Sabah in a map like this again?

the Philippines or become called Filipinos. In fact, the people of Mindanao and Sulu don't even like getting called Filipinos. Many of those that either migrated from the Philippines or descended from Filipino migrants favored a Malaysian nationality, and felt more comfortable speaking Malay, not Filipino (or Tagalog). If people thought the separatist movements in Mindanao and Sulu were bad, it did not compare to the outrage caused to Sabah's inhabitants when the United Nations ceded the territory to the Philippines.

Philippine-flag burnings became a common tradition in Sabah, and the persecution against the non-native Filipino population in Sabah skyrocketed. Civil unrest, often involving Indonesian soldiers were common. 

Kota Kinabalu, once Sabah's jewel of tourism, was on Yahoo Travel's worse cities to go to in 2011. 

What can be as difficult is a change of currencies, comes a change of language. Now, Sabahans found themselves becoming part of a territory with a different national language, instead of Malay, it was Filipino. The Philippine government had to spend nearly $10,000,000 in property insurance costs to install Filipino-language signs in Sabah. While high-ranking politicians opted to learn Filipino, it was the last thing on native Sabahans' minds. For the most part, none bothered or cared to learn Filipino and continued speaking Malay, or as it was known, Bahasa Malaysia. They still referred to it as Bahasa Malaysia. 

Filipino was still considered a foreign language in Sabah. The state officiating of Malay as the third official language of the Philippines did not help, and failed to impress Sabah's natives or gain sympathy from them.

Police man riots asia

A Filipino police man attacks a protester in Kota Kinabalu

Islamic insurgencies in Sabah sky-rocketed, led by ethnic Malay leaders, targeting against non-Muslims and non-Malays.

All in a nutshell: Philippine Sabah is and was a complete failure. No efforts have been to make peace between Sabahans and mainland Filipinos. Filipinos traveling to Sabah still feel like they're in Malaysia. 

Maybe Sabah was "going to" become Philippine territory had its history taken a different course, but maybe some things just weren't mean to be. People just got to move on. It's like saying that Kazakhstan or Belarus should become part of Russia because they were Soviet territory. Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay admitted to this.

"Sabah becoming part of our republic looked good on paper, but the reality is far different, far-more brutal. I understand why many Filipinos felt that Sabah was rightfully our territory. But people gotta understand, that the history of our sultans ruling in Sabah is history. We have to move on, especially given to the history of the Philippines. Maybe at one point, it was right for Sabah to become Filipino territory, but that time has long-passed if it ever existed. Now, I'm starting to accept the fact that maybe, it just wasn't mean to be and the negative consequences of that may just simply be teaching us a lesson to move on and let go."

Hussein Malik, a member of the Philippine National Police serving in Sabah said, "They don't consider themselves Filipinos. Their history isn't associated with the Philippines, and yes, at one point it was, but the majority of Sabah's history is with Malaysia. They still fly Malaysian flags here, so I don't see a problem with just letting go."

In a political nutshell, the issue at hand is this, be careful of what you wish for. The Filipinos wished Sabah to them, they got it. But looks like Filipinos left stable economy and loyal citizens out ... oops. 

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