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Philippine naval ships deployed to stabilise Sabah standoff
Publication Date : 22-02-2013
Six Philippines naval ships have been deployed to the seas of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi to prevent possible spill over from the standoff between Malaysian forces and the self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan's gunmen.
The ships are only conducting patrols within the waters of Tawi-Tawi islands in south Philippines, less than half-hour speed boat ride from the seaside village of Tandau where the Sulu group has been holed up since February 9.
Philippines navy spokesman Lt Comm Gregory Fabic was quoted as telling the media in Manila that the naval vessels would not dock in Sabah waters but were there to help make the situation stable.
He stated that there were also no instructions given for the evacuation of the Sulu group led Raja Muda Azzimudie Kiram, the brother of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.
`"We are hoping that this will be resolved peacefully. If they are retreating, we are not there to help them because we need instructions if they can be picked up,'' Fabic was quoted as saying.
"f there are conflicts, we cannot help them. We will (only go there) if it is resolved peacefully and are given instructions to repatriate them,'' Fabic added.
The Sulu group of about 100 have insisted on staying put in Tanduo although a Friday deadline for them to be deported is looming.
The Malaysian security forces, who have thrown a tight land and sea cordon around the group, are reportedly in a position to deport the group anytime but are holding back pending efforts to resolve the standoff through negotiations without bloodshed.
Meanwhile, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III reportedly said in Manila that the Sulu gunmen, who claimed that North Borneo was part of the Sulu Sultanate, should give up peacefully.
"Going there with arms is not the way to resolve this. When you brandish arms naturally the other side has only one way to respond to such a challenge,'' Aquino was quoted as saying in his first public comment on the incident.
Aquino also stated that his government had been talking to all parties, including the Sultan's family, to find a peaceful solution.
Philippines Foreign secretary Albert del Rosario stated in a separate statement that Aquino had ordered his government authorities ``to do everything'' possible to try and urge them to peacefully withdraw and to do this as quickly as possible.