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The government flatly denied on Monday that the Philippines has offered to drop its longstanding claim to Sabah, saying the diplomatic note it had handed to Malaysia concerned the South China Sea conflicts and not the Borneo territory.
"Sabah was never mentioned in the Note and there's no way that we are dropping our claim on Sabah," Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said when asked at a news conference about a media report that interpreted the Note Verbale as tantamount to the Philippines trading off its Sabah claim in exchange for Malaysia's support in the Philippine arbitration case against China.
In Malacañang, presidential spokesperson Secretary Edwin Lacierda said, "There is absolutely no basis to such report."
Department of National Defense spokesman also Peter Paul Galvez also denied the report.
"We have no knowledge of such info," Galvez told GMA News Online in a text message.
Jose said giving up the Sabah claim would never be an option.
"We can not do that," he said. "We can not even think of that."
"One thing we will say is that it is a disservice to the country if conclusions such as these are irresponsibly made," Jose added.
A news report that came out on Sunday stated that Manila was “reviewing” its protest against Malaysia’s claims over Sabah and is considering to downgrade its own claims in exchange for support in the case against China.
The Philippine diplomatic note was referring to the May 6, 2009 joint submission by Malaysia and Vietnam to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) in which Malaysia claimed an extended continental shelf that included Sabah. This was protested by Manila as Malaysia's submission will jeopardize its claim on Sabah.
Jose said that the Note Verbale only concerned the South China Sea territorial issues and not anything else. The Philippines and Malaysia, he added, have excellent relations and suggested that both sides were collaborating on the South China Sea territorial disputes.
"In the context of our friendly bilateral relations, our two countries have been for years exchanging ways on how to address the issue of an extended continental shelf in the South China Sea," he said. "The Note Verbale that was written about was part of this process."
"The note is about features in the South China Sea and their implications in the extended continental shelf claims," Jose added.
Malaysia and the Philippines are both claimants to the South China Sea, as well as China, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan.
Manila filed a legal challenge against China before a The Hague-based tribunal to declare Beijing's massive claim in the resource-rich waters illegal. The Philippines said China's huge claim infringes on its sovereign territories. —NB, GMA News