OSG studying implications to PH of court ruling on Sabah favoring Sulu sultan's heirs

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 2) — The Office of the Solicitor General is looking into the implications for the Philippines of a recent French arbitral court order for the Malaysian government to pay descendants of the last Sultan of Sulu $15-billion to settle a dispute over an 1878 land deal.

"The OSG, on its own, is carefully studying the legal and constitutional implications, if any, of the arbitral award in favor of the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu," Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra told reporters on Tuesday.

In February, the Paris Court of Appeal ordered the payment to the late sultan's heirs. This came as Malaysia allegedly failed to pay them annually since 2013, breaching an international private lease agreement on North Borneo, now known as Sabah.

The 5,300 Malaysia ringgit (RM) supposed to be paid to the heirs yearly stems from the 1878 agreement inked by former Sultan Jamal Al Alam to lease territory to Baron de Overbeck and Alfred Dent, representatives of the British North Borneo Company.

Years after being occupied by the Japanese and eventually becoming a British Crown Colony, Sabah became a state under Malaysia which gained independence on 1963.

The Philippines has a long-standing claim to Sabah, having presented itself as the successor state of the Sultanate of Sulu.

The dispute stems from the term "pajak" in the agreement written in Arabic. The Philippines maintains it means lease, while Malaysia says it translates to cession.

"[T]he President's articulation of his statement about not giving up a square inch of territory will have to be reduced into writing and into specifics. After which, we will announce these to you if they are in any way related to the Sabah claim," Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said in a Malacañang briefing.

"At the moment, there's no articulation yet so we'll have to wait," said Cruz-Angeles in a mix of English and Filipino.