MANILA, March 17 (Xinhua) -- Philippine President Benigno Aquino III described on Sunday the Sabah claim as a "complicated issue", and needs careful evaluation of the facts.
Aquino criticized those who have "masterminded" the Sabah " invasion" which placed the lives of about 800,000 Filipinos at risk, in his speech during the commencement ceremony of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in Baguio City.
"Could any Malaysian Prime Minister so easily agree to let go of a land that, for so long, has been subject to their laws? Is there a Philippine President who would, without a second thought, give up our claim?" he said.
"I ask you to consider my position: whether or not the claims of those who went to Sabah are legitimate, how does one weigh actions against the lives and livelihoods that are put in danger, should an outright conflict begin?" Aquino said.
He said that the Sabah claim needs a careful and truthful evaluation of the facts, and a subsequent negotiation along those lines, to produce the right solution.
The President said the "masterminds" of the incursion, along with those who "provoked and aggravated the situation," were only pursuing their own personal interests without thinking of the consequences of their actions on the majority.
About 180 followers, some of them armed, of the Sulu Sultanate sailed from southern Philippine province of Tawi-Tawi to Lahad Datu in Sabah on Feb. 12 to assert their claim over the minerals- and oil-rich territory. After about two weeks of holing up in a Lahad Datu village, a clash occurred between the Malaysian forces and Kiram followers, leaving around 60 deaths.
Thousands of Filipinos have fled from Sabah and returned to southern Philippines since the encounter.