KOTA KINABALU: Putrajaya has been urged to take stronger action to defend the country’s sovereignty over Sabah from external threats and intrusions due to overlapping maritime claims in the South China Sea.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Dr Jeffrey Kitingan (pic) said it was needed to ensure the maritime and airspace sovereignty of the nation.
“Sabah is directly exposed to the ongoing conflict arising from the numerous overlapping sovereign claims to islands, reefs and rocks in the South China Sea,” he said in a statement here on Sunday (May 1).
Kitingan, who is Sabah STAR president, said he has been following closely the development of the conflicting claims in the South China Sea from time to time.
“I found that the threat to Sabah’s maritime sovereignty has been worrying of late in view of it being in the frontline of the overlapping claims issue.
“This calls for a more serious intervention from the Federal Government through the Defence Ministry and the relevant agencies,” he said, adding that it was part of the safeguards for Sabah under the Malaysia Agreement 1963.
He said that throughout 2021, the Malaysian Navy had reported 23 cases in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EZZ).
“These incidences apparently started in 2013,” he added.
Encroachments involving China’s military assets in the South China Sea are nothing new.
Kitingan also highlighted that the threat to the country’s maritime sovereignty has affected the economy.
Since last year, China’s Maritime Enforcement Agency has been reported to have encroached Kawasari, a gas field off the coast of Sarawak, and affected works involving the development of the country’s new oil and gas operations by Petronas.
The continuous intimidation by China’s maritime vessels patrolling in the South China Sea has also affected fishermen in Sabah.