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Thursday, February 28, 2013

‘Sulu sultanate eying the riches of Sabah’


The heirs of Sulu Sultanate have indicated that they want an increase in their annual 'rental fees'.
MANILA: Half a century after the Philippine government formally staked its claim on Sabah, on behalf of the Sultanate of Sulu, the history of that claim took an ugly turn when gunfight erupted between the sultan’s followers and Malaysian armed forces today.
The followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III have been holed up in Lahad Datu, Sabah to press their claim since since Feb 12.
Some 180 armed and unarmed followers of Kiram face possible arrest for defying President Aquino’s appeal to return to the Philippines. They also face violent extraction should the Malaysian authorities decide to use force to remove them.
‘The Malaysian Standard’ in a special report said the issues are sensitive, convoluted and involve the basis and motivation of the claim, the heirs, the payment of rental fees, and Malaysia’s role in the government’s peace deal with the Muslims in Mindanao.
The heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu had previously indicated that they wanted an increase in the annual “rental fees” that they had been receiving from the Malaysian government, which is RM5,300 or roughly P70,000.
One of the Sultan’s sons, Abdula Kiram, once lamented how measly the annual rental was compared to the billions of dollars that Sabah had been generating for the Malaysian government.
Hence, the Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and his followers could be eyeing a piece of the oil and gas pie that Malaysia has been monopolising.
Sabah is just a fourth of the Philippines’ landmass, yet it is richly blessed with oil and gas, contributing 14 percent of Malaysia’s natural gas and 30 percent of its crude oil reserves.
Sabah’s oil and gas industry has been operating for over 30 years, and in 2009 its oil and gas were the biggest contributor to the island’s gross domestic product.
Sabah’s oil reserves were calculated at 1.5 billion barrels in 2011, but new oilfields have been discovered since to raise the estimate substantially. The island’s gas reserves have been estimated at 11-trillion cubic feet, with four new oilfields being found in the waters in the last two years.
In 2011 statement by Dr Hiew King Cheu, the MP for Kota Kinabalu, claimed that, as of March 31, 2011, Sabah had 15 oil wells producing as much as 192,000 barrels a day. At that output, he said, Sabah was actually producing the equivalent of RM53 million (P696 million) a day.
By contrast, the Philippines produces only 6,000 barrels of oil daily, according to data from the Energy Department. In 2012 the Philippines produced 1.64 million barrels of oil of which the Galoc oilfield accounted for 1.482 million barrels, which was 29 percent lower than the previous year.
The country’s biggest source of crude oil, the Galoc oil field, is expected to contribute P1.74 billion to the national coffers from 2012 to 2015, which is a far cry from Malaysia’s 5-percent yearly estimated royalty of about P12.5 billion from Sabah’s oil production.
With billions in existing and potential windfall from Sabah’s natural resources, it is apparently clear how much of a “national interest” Sabah is to any controlling entity.

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