THE Philippines will not lift the “memorial” it filed with the International Tribunal on the Laws of the Sea (Itlos) despite a recent meeting between President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, a Malacañang official said on Thursday.
In an interview, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said while the two leaders met for the first time and exchanged pleasantries, it does not follow that the memorial, a diplomatic term that connotes a petition or protest, should be withdrawn.
“There is no change in our position. Our filing with the arbitration, for arbitration, is still an active process and we continue to await progress on that process,” Coloma added.
He said President Aquino’s position was that the disputes over rocks and shoals in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) are not the “end all and be all” of the two countries’ bilateral relations.
“I think what was reaffirmed by the two leaders yesterday [Tuesday] is what the President and former President Hu Jintao affirmed when they met in September 2011 when the President visited China that there is a robust history of bilateral relations between the two countries that is not designed alone by issues in the South China Sea,” Coloma explained.
Earlier this year, the Philippines government through the Department of Foreign Affairs, filed the memorial before Itlos, contesting Beijing’s nine-dash line rule on claiming ownership over disputed territories in the South China Sea.
The protest was expected to drag on for years, especially if China would refuse to acknowledge it.
Nevertheless, Coloma said they “will continue to affirm that for our side, we will abide by the principles of peaceful settlement of disputes.”
“We have never and we’ll not take any aggressive action or resort to any move that will create tension. So as far as we are concerned, we continue to follow the norms of conduct that are defined by the concept of peaceful settlement of disputes with regard to the issues of maritime entitlement,” he added.
The Palace official, part of Aquino’s official delegation to the 25th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Myanmar, disclosed that none of the heads of state was against the Philippines’ position.
“I don’t think there was any expression of, there was any specific expression of reservation. What I heard uniformly was an affirmation of the need to promote regional peace and stability and that the fleshing out of the Declaration of the Code of Conduct and having a definitive Code of Conduct was generally seen to be an element in building regional peace and stability. I do not recall hearing any statement of reservation,” Coloma said.
He added that the body affirmed the basic principles in reference to Article 5 of the declaration on restraint or the non-use of threat or force, the recognition of the importance of having peaceful settlement of disputes and also of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and other international agreements.