Much has been said about Operation Merdeka and the position of the Philippines on the Sabah claim. Many have claimed that President Marcos is the only President of the Republic of the Philippines who really “meant” to claim Sabah for the Philippines. With all of these discussions, many have failed to present the Malaysian position on this matter. In this entry, I will present to you the Malaysian and American Reactions on the failed Philippine invasion of Sabah known as the infamous Operation Merdeka.
This Sabah problem led the-then Philippine Presidents Diosdado Macapagal then later on Ferdinand Marcos to establish special military units tasked with fomenting dissent amongst Sabah’s non-Malay ethnic groups, namely the Tausug and Sama, two groups closely aligned ethnically and culturally with the Bangsamoro.
The code name of this destabilization program was “Operation Merdeka” (Operation Freedom), with Manuel Syquio as project leader and then Maj. Eduardo Abdul Latif Martelino as operations officer. The plan involved the recruitment of nearly 200 Tausug and Sama Muslims aged 18 to 30 from Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and their training in the island-town of Simunul, which was where the Arab missionary Makhdum built the first mosque in the Philippines in the 13th century. The recruits were excited about the promise not only of a monthly allowance, but also over the prospect of eventually becoming a member of an elite unit in the Philippine Armed Forces. From August to December 1967, the young recruits underwent training in Simunul. The name of the the commando unit: Jabidah.
According to “The Corregidor Massacre – 1968,” by Paul Whitman, on December 30, 1968, from 135 to 180 recruits boarded a Philippine Navy vessel for the island of Corregidor in Luzon for “specialized training.”
However, the second phase of the training turned mutinous when the recruits discovered their true mission was to fight their brother Muslims in Sabah and also possibly killing their own Tausug and Sama relatives living there. Additionally, the recruits had already begun to feel disgruntled over the non-payment of the promised P50 monthly allowance. The recruits then demanded to be returned home. For the military planners, it seemed that there was only one choice.
As the sole survivor later recounted, the plotters led the trainees out of their Corregidor barracks on the night of March 18, 1968 in batches of twelve. They were taken to a nearby airstrip. There, the plotters mowed the trainees down with gunfire. Jibin Arula, the survivor, said that he heard a series of shots and saw his colleagues fall. He ran towards a mountain and rolled off the edge on to the sea. He recalled clinging to a plank of wood and stayed afloat. By morning, fishers from nearby Cavite rescued him.
The massacre of the trainees was the spark that launched the Muslim insurgency in Mindanao.
The Jabidah Massacre has been revealed by the then Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. (Father of the current Philippine President) in his privileged speech in the Senate floor. An act of treason on the part of Senator Aquino since he compromised the national security of the country at that time. The Malaysians almost retaliated and the effect of the action was even felt in the US and British soils and it even dragged no less than the United Nations Secretary General to the issue.
The Malaysian reaction was well documented by the US Ambassador to the Philippines through his Telegram to Secretary of State Rusk. Here is the copy of the letter dated March 26, 1968.
This letter described the effects of the events on both Malaysia and the Philippines. This report was created to assess the US position on this issue especially that it will affect the status of the US Bases in the Philippines.
Intelligence Note From the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Hughes) to Secretary of State Rusk
Washington, March 26, 1968.
Malaysian Reaction to the Disclosure of Philippine Plans to Subvert Sabah
Malaysia, long aware through its own intelligence service, of the Philippine clandestine training program for subversion in Sabah, has been prompted to formal diplomatic protest by the public disclosure of the training camp at Corregidor. Although incensed by Philippine behavior, Kuala Lumpur continues to hope that Manila’s response will permit the maintenance of diplomatic relations.
Malaysian Efforts to Kill the Philippine Plan.
The Malaysian government has known since May 1967 through its own intelligence service that the Philippines was involved in preparing a program for infiltration and subversion in Sabah in support of the Philippine claim there. Early in December, Malaysia learned that Philippine guerrillas were being trained in the southern Philippines. While top Malaysian officials were incensed that an ostensibly friendly country and a fellow member of the recently created Association of Southeast Asian Nations would plot to subvert a part of their territory, they were confident that their own security forces could repel any Philippine subversion effort and that the political situation in Sabah was not susceptible to Philippine influence. The Malaysians hoped that, by quietly making known their awareness of the Philippine plans, they could persuade the Philippine government to drop the project, thus preventing any rupture in Philippine-Malaysian relations.
Malaysia’s Formal Protest to the Philippines.
The unexpected revelation of the secret Philippine training program at Corregidor, which was given wide publicity in the Philippines and Malaysia coincident with the arrest of twenty armed Filipinos attempting to enter Sabah illegally, persuaded the Malaysian government that it must take formal if low-key notice of the Philippine program. On March 23, accordingly, a protest note was handed to the second secretary of the Philippine Embassy by a medium level official. The note stated that Malaysia took the news of the Corregidor camp “most seriously in view of the recent arrest of more than twenty Filipinos with arms — who were unable to explain their presence in Sabah.” Malaysia would have “no alternative but to regard such activities as a most serious breach of good faith and friendly relations” and requested “a full explanation.” The Malaysian note also said that Malaysia had instructed its representative at the UN to bring the matter to the attention of the Secretary General.
Malaysia was not reassured by Philippine reaction to its note, even though Foreign Secretary Ramos told the Malaysian Ambassador that the Philippines was “not trying to instigate a revolt in Sabah” and that the Philippines would answer the Malaysian note soon “in a friendly, moderate tone.” It was clear that the Philippines was annoyed that the Malaysians were reporting to the UN Secretary General. One Philippine diplomat called this action “presumptuous” and said Malaysia was elevating the issue unnecessarily. The Malaysians were further disturbed when Marcos and Ramos insisted that the Corregidor training camp had been established for counterinsurgency training following reports of communist activities in Mindanao and the Sulus and when Manila in its secret reply to Malaysia’s note accused the Malaysians of infiltrating the Philippines from Sabah. On March 25, the Malaysians issued a statement demanding that, in the interests of friendly relations between the two countries, the results of both President Marcos’ and the Philippine Congress’ investigations of the Corregidor training program be made public and describe the objectives of the training.
Prospects for Philippine-Malaysian Relations.
The Malaysian government hopes that, having presented its low-key formal protest to Manila, no further diplomatic action on its part will be necessary and that it will not be pushed toward a break in diplomatic relations. Its ability to maintain this policy depends, however, on the Philippine diplomatic response, on Malaysian press and public reactions to the further revelations that may result from the official investigations of the training program, and on the reverberations produced in the Philippines by these investigations.
The Sabah Issue has been brought up in the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in 1968 led by the then Foreign Minister Thanat Khoman of Thailand. This is the main venue where the Sabah Issue was placed in the back-burner and has never been opened up until today (2013). The US Department of State made a very good analysis on the effects of the issue to the Diplomatic Relations of Malaysia and the Philippines as well as the stability of ASEAN at that time.
Same as the current situation, the United States cannot meddle on this affair since they have interests to protect. Before, they have to protect their interests in the Philippines especially on the status of the military bases. In today’s time, the United States cannot afford to take sides because of the Pacific Pivot Policy of the Obama Administration. Whatever the outcome of the event, the US will remain neutral since they cannot antagonize both the Philippines and Malaysia. The United States has to maintain their presence in Asia for their containment policy against China.
Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Bundy) to Secretary of State Rusk
Washington, May 20, 1968.
The Sabah Dispute and ASEAN
As you will recall, at the luncheon May 9, Foreign Minister Thanat raised the question of the Philippine-Malaysian dispute over Sabah and his concern that the dispute may disrupt the ASEAN ministerial meeting in August. Thanat plans to reason with both parties before the bilateral talks on Sabah open in Bangkok June 17. He would like us to persuade President Marcos to cool off the quarrel. We did not at the time so inform Thanat, but we have told the Filipinos informally, when they mentioned the issue that we thought they should quiet the matter.
After giving the matter further thought, and discussing it with the Country Directors in EA, I believe that we should continue to avoid active intervention in the Sabah dispute, and to avoid initiating discussions on this issue with any of the interested governments. In arriving at this conclusion, I considered the following points:
Seriousness of Present Impasse
We expect the Bangkok talks on Sabah to fail, with mutual recriminations. Malaysia intends to reject the Philippine claim outright and to refuse a second round of talks, even if (according to one senior Malaysian official) the Philippines react by breaking diplomatic relations again. The Malaysians also plan to stage a military demonstration in Sabah while the bilateral talks are going on. On the Philippine side, President Marcos is reported to have reversed the moderate line urged by Foreign Secretary Ramos, and the Department of Foreign Affairs is now taking a “second hard look” at the relative priorities of regional cooperation and the Sabah claim.
Sabah as a Southeast Asian Problem
We have told both the Filipinos and the Malaysians that we consider Sabah primarily a problem which they will have to work out for themselves. Other members of ASEAN, working separately or jointly, may be able to help them work out a face-saving compromise, or to persuade them at least to try to contain the dispute in order to minimize the damage to regional cooperation. I believe that advice or pressure from outside powers, however well-intended, would only weaken the sense of responsibility of ASEAN members for handling their own affairs, and that at this point, we can best encourage the development of ASEAN by standing aside and letting the member states decide for themselves how to deal with the potential threat posed by the Sabah dispute.
U.S.-Philippine Relations and Philippines in Southeast Asia
I believe that it would be unwise especially for the U.S. to attempt to guide or influence the Philippines on this issue. Such a move would encourage the Filipinos’ tendency to draw us into their affairs and then to consider us responsible for the situation. It would also reinforce the view held by other Southeast Asian nations that the Philippine Government cannot be dealt with as a responsible Government, but must be approached through Uncle Sam, who will keep them in line. If the Philippines is to play a responsible role in Southeast Asian affairs, Filipino leaders must learn to conduct their affairs without guidance from us, and to bear the consequences of their mistakes.
The attached telegram would instruct Bangkok to follow up the luncheon conversation of May 9 with Thanat with a fuller discussion of the Sabah issue, and to outline an appropriate portion of the reasoning I have given above. Other addressees would be authorized to draw on the message in discussions with interested officials, but not to raise the Sabah question independently.
The United States being a staunch “ally” of the Philippines at that time, made their own assessments of the problem. The US Government sent a special mission to Sabah and Malaysia to assess the current situation. It is very difficult position for the US since they cannot antagonize the Philippines in any way but also they cannot side with the Philippines all the way since it would mean a strain in American-British Relations. Britain has been the cause of all these problems. They have been the primary actor on the UN move of conducting special elections in Sabah on the issue territory and the result that Sabahans want to join the Federation of Malaya which was not accepted by both the Philippines and Indonesia. Another worry of the United States was the presence of a Communist Ambassador in Kuala Lumpur which is very alarming especially during at the height of the Cold War. The current Philippine Foreign Secretary at that time was Felixberto Serrano.
Here is the result of the US Special Mission to Sabah which Marcos has been furnished a copy of:
Telegram From the Embassy in the Philippines to the Department of State
Manila, October 2, 1968, 0947Z.
Sabah: U.S.-Philippine relations.
1. It is a truism that U.S.-Philippine relations are in many ways unique. With no other nation in Asia do we share the same closeness of sentimental and emotional ties. Nowhere else in Asia do we have such a visible and overwhelming political, military and economic presence. Only Thailand rivals the Philippines as a base of support for our military effort in Vietnam. All these factors create a network of ties which makes it impossible to divorce actions of the GOP from its relations with the U.S. The Philippine dispute with Malaysia over Sabah has, therefore, an unavoidable effect on our bilateral relations.
2. As reported reftel, there has been a strong emotional reaction to what many Filipinos view as a rejection and repudiation by the U.S. The reflex reaction was a desire to punish the U.S. expressed in demands for PHILCAG withdrawal, modification or termination of the bases agreement and renegotiation of the defense treaty. While the British and Malaysia got their lumps, the focus of most of the demonstrations was against the U.S. The demonstration Sept 30 at Clark Air Base, the restriction of military overflights and landing rights, customs harassment in the port of Manila are further manifestations of GOP displeasure.
3. If President Marcos should decide to follow a more active course in pressing the Philippine claim to Sabah it is almost inevitable that the established American position of impartiality will be interpreted as opposition to the Philippines (if we are not with them we’re against them). The negative aspects of Philippine nationalism have traditionally focused on the U.S., and the Philippine claim could easily become more anti-American than anti-Anglo Malaysian. Philippine youth does not have the built-in restraint of memories of wartime cooperation with the U.S. Once Congress has reconvened we can expect its more vocal members to join the effort to get political benefit from attacks on the U.S. If this should be the course of events, we will be in for a dicey time. The extent of our exposure in this country produces a multitude of targets, and life could be made most unpleasant without outright violation of the letter of any of the network of agreements linking our two countries.
4. Our military relations are particularly sensitive. We have outstanding commitments to discuss a number of provisions of the bases agreement and of course general commitments in Bohlen-Serrano to discuss “any question of particular interest” to either government. A formal demand by the GOP for renegotiation, followed by a tough approach and protracted talks, could have a serious adverse effect on military planning for the whole of the Western Pacific and Southeast Asia. The pending Smith case could be used as the basis for a request to renegotiate the bases agreement or could be combined with other general harassment of U.S. interests. The GOP may also seek formal renegotiation of the defense treaty in an effort to extract a more categorical commitment to immediate defense of the Philippines should it come under attack. There is also a broad range of other harassments which might include any combination of the following:
A. Stimulate labor troubles on the bases.
B. Over-bureaucratize customs procedures to point of stoppages—insist on customs control at Subic and Clark.
C. Take away our military radio frequencies (or harassment short of complete denial).
D. Institute clearance procedure of various degrees of cumbersomeness for all, or various categories, of U.S. and military flights (in country-out of country).
E. Deliberate slowness on visas for contractor employees and technical representatives.
F. Harass our military personnel with criminal actions.
G. Insist on taxation of MAC charter flights.
H. Insist on having Philippine customs, tax, immigration people on base.
I. Tax sealand shipments-vehicle registration, income tax, etc.
J. Licensing of on base contractors.
5. Philippine economic nationalism and individual greed, already making life difficult for American business, is certain to intensify as the GOP uses this technique of getting at the U.S. by vicarious punishment of American business. Following is a recap of existing or possible additional moves in this field.
A. Delay action on applications of American businessmen for treaty-trader-investor visas.
B. Postpone Senate consideration of ratification of U.S.-GOP double taxation agreement (already ratified by U.S. Senate).
C. Institute further court actions against U.S. business under Retail Trade Act.
D. Push through Oil Commission bill in next special session of Congress to detriment of U.S. oil companies.
E. Approval by President of anti-discrimination bill (equal pay for equal work).
F. Customs harassment on clearance of goods (including remnants) from U.S.
6. In the political field, the GOP apparently still feels that it can hurt us by opening diplomatic and trade ties with the Communist world. Plans are going ahead for a govt-sponsored company for trading with Communist bloc. The presence of a Soviet ambassador in Kuala Lumpur could now take on heightened significance, and as some Congressmen have suggested, there have been feints at seeking to obtain military equipment from the Communist world.
7. PHILCAG is an obvious target, and Marcos has the relatively graceful out of pleading insufficient funds to maintain it in Viet-Nam. He may, however, decide to go slow in a Philippine withdrawal since it would cancel his claim to a place at the peace table and, perhaps even more important, a chance to share in the post-war division of American military equipment. Rotation of PHILCAG to maintain the existing 1,500 strength level is now in progress and if the lift remains on schedule rotation will be completed on Oct 15. Several options short of complete withdrawal are open to Marcos including further across the board scaling down or selected withdrawal of engineer troops.
8. U.S. interests in the broader context of regional cooperation are also bound to suffer. The ASEAN Commerce and Industry Council met on schedule in Manila with a brave show of regional harmony, but the relentless logic of a consistent stand for and against the claim will tend to force the Filipinos and Malaysians into head-on collision in every common regional body, with a consequent disruptive effect on the whole framework of regional cooperation.
9. The foregoing bleak picture of a possible course of Philippine-U.S. relations is based on a pessimistic projection of events. Marcos in the coming days will be weighing carefully the advantages and disadvantages of the options open to him. In the third message in this series we will discuss courses of action which might help to shape his decisions.
On October 14, 1968, President Marcos is still pushing for the United States to support the Philippines on the Sabah Claim. He wants to use this issue as a platform for the Administration to make their Senate bets win the Midterm Elections; but also, Marcos wants to show the world and the Filipino people that he is in total control of the dispute and he can play it anytime he wants. This was evident in the conversation of President Marcos and Ambassador Williams. The issue was discussed under point number 4 and 8.
Telegram From the Embassy in the Philippines to the Department of State
Manila, October 14, 1968, 1050Z.
Williams talk with President Marcos
The talk in connection with the demonstrations turned naturally toward Sabah. The President said, “You know the Philippine people are really concerned about Sabah. I didn’t realize myself how concerned they were. This is an important, serious issue with them.” The President said again, as he had on previous occasions, that the Moslems were causing him a great deal of trouble on this issue. He said that Mindanao Moslems could be a problem because they could go to Sabah at any time and could cause trouble there. He said again as he said when Assistant SecretaryBundy spoke with him, that he would do everything to try to stop them from doing this, including his using force. He brought this latter matter up in connection with his last point, namely that the United States could help settle the Sabah issue.
President Marcos then went on to say, “I want to ask your government’s help in getting a successful meeting between Malaysia and myself. I would like to see a picture taken of the Tunku and me sitting down at such a meeting.” I said first of all I would like to understand whether President Marcos would be satisfied with a conference only involving a picture of himself taken with the Tunku or whether he was going to open a discussion in search of a Sabah solution. “I would like to get together and talk about lessening the tension between our countries,” he said. I said, “We have taken the position constantly that we would like to see your two countries get together. We would certainly favor such a meeting. We have always wanted to see your neighbors help you get together, since we want to keep our profile very low. I don’t know what we ourselves can do to bring about a meeting between you two.” He then said, “If I may make a suggestion, I would like to suggest that your country could get together with the British to move Malaysia in the direction of such a conference.” He said that he had talked with the British Ambassador recently about this matter. I said that I would convey the President’s feelings to my government and I added that I felt sure my government would be very happy to know of the President’s interest in trying to get the Sabah matter calmed down.
Since there was no positive response from the United States on their support for the Sabah Claim and also to retaliate against the United Kingdom, President Marcos through his supporters from the Senate and the House of Representatives legislated the Philippine Archipelago Theory and the Right of Innocent Passage. In this Telegram, the United States described the British Government on how stressed they were with these actions of President Marcos. The British Government sought the help of the United States to pacify the Philippines. Here are the two letters:
Action Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Godley) to the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Bundy)
Washington, November 15, 1968.
Philippine Archipelago Theory and the Right of Innocent Passage
1. The Philippine Government recently amended its legislation concerning territorial seas and internal waters, thereby reasserting its claim to an area of the high seas which at one point extends over 300 miles from the nearest Philippine land area of any consequence. This is a repetition of a previous claim made by the Philippine Government which we and other nations have never recognized. In 1961 we officially notified the Philippine Government of our non-recognition of this claim, and we consider it advisable to repeat our position at this time.
2. If this had been the only issue raised by the Philippine Government, it could have been handled in a low key and with little or no controversy with the Philippine Government. However, the Philippine Government has also for the first time attempted to deny the right of innocent passage to warships by requiring prior permission for passage of warships through Philippine claimed waters. This Philippine position was expressed in an Aide-Mémoire delivered to the British Government, an Aide-Mémoire delivered to the Australian Government, and a news release by the press office of Malacanang . By the terms of these documents, the Philippine position would apply to all armed foreign public vessels. We do not feel we can leave this position unchallenged. It is contrary to the United States Government’s view that a requirement of previous authorization for passage of warships is inconsistent with the right of innocent passage for warships guaranteed by the Convention on the Territorial Sea and customary international law. Philippine enforcement of their announced policy would create a precedent that invites application of this principle to other areas such as the Straits of Gibraltar, thereby endangering passage that is crucial to the strategic interests of the United States, its allies, and the free world. DOD (particularly the Navy), and the Office of the Legal Adviser in the Department feel very strongly, and we in EA concur, that we must not allow this precedent to take hold.
3. Both the British and the Australians are faced with the necessity of replying to notes and Aides-Mémoire but their Embassies here expressed a desire to consult with us in advance. The British have prepared draft replies, a note protesting the legislation (Tab D) and an Aide-Mémoire in response to the Philippine Aide-Mémoire on innocent passage.
4. Given the current anger of the Filipinos against the British growing out of the Sabah dispute and British actions in support of Malaysia, it is our conviction that a delivery of the British note and Aide-Mémoire without adequate advance preparation would cause further controversy and lead the Filipinos to digging in even stronger in their untenable position. Given our overall strategic interest, we would not be able to avoid involvement. For this reason, we believe the best procedure for all concerned and the one offering the best chance of avoidance of an unpleasant clash between the Filipinos and their best friends is for our Embassy in Manila (preferably Ambassador Williams with President Marcos) to have a frank talk with Filipino officials. Attached as Tab F is a draft which has been cleared withDOD and the Office of the Legal Adviser, and which has been discussed with officers of the British, Australian and New Zealand Embassies here, designed to accomplish this purpose.
Telegram From the Embassy in the Philippines to the Department of State
Manila, January 13, 1969, 1150Z.
Territorial seas and Innocent Passage
1. Pursuant to references A and B, I took the above subject matter up with the President at a meeting arranged to brief him on the findings of a joint committee on weather reporting.
2. As luck would have it, after we had all shaken hands in front of his desk, he asked me to retire with him to the couch and chair arrangement in the back of the room behind the pillars where Assistant Secretary Bundy and he had their last conference. When he did not raise any matter of substance right away, I took the opportunity to raise the territorial seas and people appeared to withdraw and permit us the opportunity of relatively secure conversation.
3. I began by saying that there appeared to be a matter on which our two governments seemed to have a serious difference of principle in which our views were shared by a number of the Philippines’ best friends. Under these circumstances, I said, I thought it best to have a frank and friendly discussion to see whether some means could be found to avoid public confrontation.
4. I then said that the problem had two related aspects: (A) the Philippines archipelago claim on territorial seas which we have never recognized and have so advised the Philippine Government officially, the last time in 1961; (B) the “right of innocent passage.”
5. I then made reference to the Malacanang press release dated December 23 which quoted the aide-mémoire to the British to the effect that “armed foreign public vessels — cannot assert or exercise the so-called right of innocent passage through the Philippine territorial sea without the permission of the Philippine Government.” I said, “As you know, it is the position of the United States Government that the right of innocent passage is firmly established under international law and that my government believes it is of the greatest importance that this right be maintained. We recognize that the Philippine Government is not a party to the convention on territorial seas but that it is our view that this convention still sets forth established principles of customary international law in this area.”
6. Then I stated that the USG has always supported the right of innocent passage and that it is even more important today. I said that to accept the denial of the right of innocent passage could in our view create a precedent for similar action in other parts of the world, such as the Straits of Gibraltar. Furthermore, I said, “Were we to acquiesce in such claims, denying naval access to large sea areas of the world, it would seriously affect the strategic interest of the United States, its allies, and the free world, and we believe would be inconsistent with the overall strategic interests of the Philippines itself. It is for this reason that we feel we must in all friendship raise these issues with you at this time.”
7. Next I recognized that because of our agreements there was no question of right of innocent passage between us but that the public statement made by the Philippine Government places us in a difficult position. Further, I said, “Both of us are aware that a number of our mutual friends—Britain, Australia, New Zealand—share our views on the importance of maintaining the right of innocent passage.” Then I said “Is there any way to resolve the issue quietly—would the President consider retracting the press statement? Would he consider holding back on enforcement?”
8. The President followed my presentation closely and responded agreeably. He recognized that a serious problem was posed and intimated that it was not of his making. He said that this of course was something that the legislature had done.
9. He said he would like time to think it over but that probably two panels could be set up to review the matter quietly.
10. We ultimately broke off with the idea that he would consider the matter further.
11. From what he said, and his demeanor, I got the impression that he had no intention of pushing this matter to a confrontation but that as of the moment he had no particular solution in mind that would avoid the confrontation; although I think he would be agreeable to finding or accepting one.
12. The President made no response to my question as to whether he would consider retracting the press statement, and, as I have previously indicated, I don’t think that this would be politically feasible for him to attempt. He also did not refer directly to the matter of enforcement, but as I have already indicated, I would not think that he would go out of his way to enforce or say he would enforce these provisions unless he were forced into doing so.
The issue on the question of the status of Sabah was never resolved and will not be resolved anytime soon. Today, this issue has started again when Sultan Jamalul Kiram, III and his armed men went to Sabah. The Malaysian Government responded in a much unexpected way that alarmed the international community. Escalating tensions in the area has heightened into a level that was last seen in 1968. This problem should never be escalated into a full-scale war. Long-lasting solution on this problem can only be solved through Diplomacy. We hope that this problem can be de-escalated very much soon and the leaders of both the Philippines and Malaysia decide to go the negotiating table.