Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. raised the issue of Sabah in a tweet, saying “Sabah is not in Malaysia if you want to have anything to do with the Philippines.” The tweet came a few days after President Rodrigo Duterte declared his defeatist position over the issue of the West Philippine Sea in his fifth SONA.
In response, Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein announced that his office will summon Locsin over his tweet. “This is an irresponsible statement that affects bilateral ties. [The Malaysia Ministry of Foreign Affairs] will summon the Philippines Ambassador on Monday to explain. Sabah is, and will always be, part of Malaysia,” Hussein tweeted.
In a pre-SONA forum, Malaysia and the Philippines, along with Indonesia, entered into an agreement to safeguard their territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea. Malaysia, like the Philippines, is one of the countries that assert claims over the disputed waters. Locsin’s statement might affect the partnership between the two countries.