A top Malaysian official has summoned a senior Philippine envoy over Vice President Jejomar Binay’s statement that he will pursue the Philippines’s claim over Sabah.

Binay, who is running for president in the upcoming May elections, has expressed his plan to start back channel negotiations and pursue the country’s claim to Sabah.

“We will pursue our claim to Sabah. Why would we give up something that rightfully belongs to us?” Binay was quoted telling reporters.

Malaysia Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, on Tuesday, said, that the Philippines may be compromising its relations with Malaysia by bringing up the Sabah dispute.

“I hope the Philippine citizens are rational and take more reasonable actions to ensure that the good neighboring ties between Malaysia and the Philippines, especially if we are part of ASEAN, can continue,” Hamidi said in a televised interview.

The Malaysian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement saying it does not recognize and “will not entertain any claims by any party on Sabah”.

Sabah is recognized by the international community “as part of Malaysia since the formation of the Federation on 16 September 1963.” it said.

Hamidi also said that there is little the Philippines can do to reclaim Sabah.

“The position of Sabah is recognized by the United Nations and agreements and surveys have been carried out and the people of Sabah back then chose to be with Malaysia,” he said.

The southern Philippines including Sabah was once ruled by the Sultanate of Sulu, it is said that Sabah was only leased to the North Borneo Chartered Company in 1878 with the Sultanate’s sovereignty never being relinquished.

However, Malaysia considers this dispute as a “non-issue,” as it interprets the 1878 agreement as that of cession and that it deems that the residents of Sabah had exercised their right to self-determination when they joined to form the Malaysian federation in 1963. -Ram Arciga