MANILA -- The Philippines is bracing for possible sanctions from China over its filing of a memorial in an arbitration case over the West Philippine Sea before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).
"We will protect our national interest, which includes the economy. It is the duty of government to promote the welfare of its citizens and to ensure the orderly and stable growth of our national economy," Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said.
Coloma, however, told China that the West Philippine Sea is but one aspect of Philippines-China relations.
This, after China's foreign ministry called the arbitration case damaging to bilateral relations.
China has preferred a bilateral approach to resolving the territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea.
The Philippines and other claimant countries want a multilateral approach.
"Iyon po ay pahayag nila. Hindi ko po alam kung sino ang tinutukoy ninyong nagsabi nun. Pero po sa ating pamahalaan, malinaw naman po na tayo ay tumatali sa mga batayang prinsipyo," Coloma said.
"Noong dumalaw po ang ating Pangulo sa People's Republic of China noong 2011, sinabi niya po ito na iyon pong...the totality of Philippine-People's Republic of China relations is not defined by the West Philippine Sea. Ang ibig sabihin po nito, sa pananaw po ng ating bansa, iyong pakikipagugnayan natin sa People's Republic of China ay mayroong kasaysayan na batay din sa pakikipagkaibigan at pakikipagtulungan. Marami pong larangan na maaaring maisulong o maitaguyod ang kooperasyon at ang pakikipagkaibigan ng dalawang bansa. Kaya hindi po tayo nagsasabi na iyon lamang usapin sa West Philippine Sea ang dapat na maging batayan ng ating pakikipagugnayan sa bansang People's Republic of China," he added.
Meanwhile, Malacañang could not immediately give information as to why President Benigno Aquino III has yet to preside over the presentation of credentials of China's new ambassador to Manila.
However, Aquino and Chinese Ambassador H.E. Zhao Jianhua already met in the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (FFCCCII) 60th Diamond Anniversary Gala Night last March 29.
Coloma also sidestepped a question on whether China will be invited to the World Economic Forum on East Asia, which the Philippines will be hosting.
"The World Economic Forum is a private initiative. It is not a project of this government. We are simply the host country of the World Economic Forum and there is significant government participation as host country," he said.
The World Economic Forum for East Asia is expected to be held in Manila in May.