Pimentel made it clear that the Philippines had “not dropped the Sabah claim” as far as the ruling PDP-Laban party was concerned.

The party is pushing for federalism with one proposal creating 12 regions or states that will share greater power and responsibilities with the national government.

These include a state for the Bangsamoro, which the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) hopes could be established under a new basic law ahead of the federal shift.

“I’m assuming Sabah, logic tells me, might be populated by Filipinos, who are Muslims. Then logic tells me that they are a future part of the Bangsamoro region,” Pimentel said in an ANC Early Edition interview to be aired Wednesday.

The Philippine position is that the Sultanate of Sulu merely leased the disputed property to the British North Borneo Company, which then turned it over to the British government.

Sabah later gained independence and joined the Federation of Malaysia

The Philippine claim has been dormant since the 1960s. Malaysia continues to pay “cession money” of around P70,000 to the Sulu sultan’s heirs.

In 2013, forces loyal to the Sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram, laid siege on a portion of Sabah for six weeks. The fighting left some 200 people killed.

Pimentel’s father and namesake earlier told ANC Sabah could be added as a state under a federal Philippines.

The elder Pimentel is part of the consultative committee that President Rodrigo Duterte created to study changes in the Constitution.

The Malaysian foreign ministry promptly rejected the Pimentel proposal, saying its government “does not recognize and will not entertain any claims by any party on Sabah.”
Told about how sensitive the Malaysian government was on the issue, Senate President Pimentel said it was now up to the Philippines “whether it will act on it or not through the proper department.”

“This is a free country. We can talk about everything, even if it hurts or it alarms our neighbors. We have freedom of speech in the Philippines,” he said.