No mention of Sabah but diplomatic note singles out North Borneo
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) was misleading the public when it said Sabah was not part of a note verbale that the Philippine government sent recently to Malaysia, a trustee of the news group that broke the story said on Tuesday.
Veteran journalist Ellen T. Tordesillas, a trustee of the news group VERA Files, on Tuesday criticized the DFA for denying what was indicated in the diplomatic note and for labeling the VERA Files report as a “disservice” to the nation.
“Contrary to what DFA’s comment that putting out the story was a disservice to the country, VERA Files released the story in the interest of the public to help it fully understand the issues involved,” she said in a statement.
The Manila Times carried the VERA Files report as its banner story in its March 30 edition.
The report was based on the note verbale, which was purportedly handed over to Malaysia’s Defense Minister Dato Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein during his visit to Manila recently.
It claimed that, through the note verbale, the DFA has offered to downgrade its claim to Sabah in exchange for Malaysia’s support for its case against China before the United Nations–a simple case of quid pro quo (a favor for a favor).
“VERA Files is releasing the Philippine government’s August 2009 protest” to prove its point as it stood by its story.
Spokesman and Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Charles Jose immediately denied the report, saying what the note included were only clarifications on Malaysia’s maritime claims to disputed territories in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).
“We were asking Malaysia to clarify two points with respect to their maritime claims in the South China Sea,” Jose told reporters.
He was referring to the Philippines’ request for Malaysia to confirm that its extended continental shelf (ECS) is entirely from the mainland coast of Malaysia, and that it does not claim entitlement to maritime areas beyond the 12 nautical miles from any maritime feature on the Spratly Islands.
“The note is about the features in the South China Sea and their implications on ECS claims,” Jose said.
He added that “Sabah is not in any way part of the note.”
VERA Files’ Tordesillas said the diplomatic note “singles out North Borneo or the old name of Sabah.”
“Note Verbale No. 15-1979 sent to Malaysia, the basis of VERA Files’ story, stated that it is reviewing the August 4, 2009 protest (No. 000819) it filed with the United Nations. The Philippines’ August 2009 protest, contained in two pages, singles out North Borneo or the old name of Sabah,” she added.
The Philippines took issue with an earlier joint submission by Indonesia and Malaysia for the extended continental shelf because it “lays claims [to]areas that are disputed not only because they overlap with [those]of the Philippines, but also because of the controversy arising from territorial claims [to]some of the islands in the area including North Borneo.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry also on Tuesday, meanwhile, shrugged off reported talks between Malaysia and the Philippines for Manila to backpedal on its claim to Sabah in exchange for Kuala Lumpur’s support of Manila’s arbitration case against Beijing.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying, during her regular news conference, said they do not have information about the talks between Malaysia and the Philippines.
She maintained that China has a “clear position” on the West Philippine Sea issue, including the arbitration case initiated by the Philippines.
“We are willing to work together with relevant countries to properly resolve the disputes through dialogue and negotiation and safeguard peace and stability of the South China Sea,” the spokesman said. With