MANILA, Philippines-The government is prepared for any backlash from its move to question in the United Nations China's territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea, but Manila's ties with Beijing remains the same, Malacañang said on Wednesday.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the Philippines was upholding its interest when it submitted its memorandum to the UN arbitral tribunal on Sunday questioning China's claim over nearly the entire South China Sea, including waters within the Philippines' 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ) called West Philippine Sea.
Coloma said, however, that the Philippines' relations with China should not be based on the dispute over territories in the West Philippine Sea.
He said, "When our President visited the People's Republic of China in 2011, he said this: 'The totality of Philippine-People's Republic of China relations is not defined by the West Philippine Sea."
Coloma explained: "In our country's view, our relations with the People's Republic of China have a history that is based on friendship and cooperation. And there are many areas where both countries can promote cooperation and friendship."
"That is why we can't say that the issue of the West Philippine Sea should be the basis for our relations with the People's Republic of China," he added.
Based on principles
"Our foreign policy is based on principles, and we're not swayed by [scenarios]," Coloma said when asked about possible backlash from the filing of the memorandum despite China's warning that it would damage relations between the two countries.
But should there be an economic backlash, Coloma said the government would protect the national interest, including the economy.
"It's the duty of the government to promote the welfare of its citizens and to ensure the orderly and stable growth of our national economy," he said.
"It's a continuing duty of the government," he added.