MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang sees no need to explain President Benigno Aquino III’s comparison of China to Hitler-led Germany, despite a scathing commentary on China’s state-run news agency calling Aquino “amateurish” and “ignorant.”
On Thursday, February 6, Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma defended the President’s statements in an interview with the New York Times, wherein Aquino likened the Philippines’ situation to that of Czechoslovakia’s during World War II.
The latter lost Sudetenland in 1938 to the demands of a much stronger Germany, because of what Aquino reasoned was the West’s failure to support it.
Aquino was quoted by the Times as saying, “At what point do you say, ‘Enough is enough?’ Well, the world has to say it — remember that the Sudetenland was given in an attempt to appease Hitler to prevent World War II.”
Coloma however, shrugged off a commentary on China’s Xinhua news agency slamming Aquino.
“I don’t think there is any move on our part to explain. The President has the right to express his views to journalists that interview him. Can you imagine a situation that one of you asks the President something and he replied in a certain way, is this something that needs to be explained to another country? I don’t think so,” he said.
He added, “Any newspaper, local or foreign, is free to give their own comments, but we will just remain focused on achieving what is best for our national interest. We will not be swayed or distracted by a commentary that is not fully aligned with our own position.”
Coloma, who was present during the Times interview, also explained the context of Aquino’s statement, adding, the President first explained to the interviewer the various steps the Philippines had taken to address the conflicting claims over the West Philippine Sea.
He said the “comment came at the end of a long passage, where the President explained in great detail the steps that we have taken.”
A day earlier, Coloma said the comment was not meant to offend China. He reiterated that the President’s “main thrust” was “to call on the nations that are signatories to the UN Convention to acknowledge the lessons from history and to achieve a certain amount of solidarity in order to ensure that the principles of the rule of law will be upheld.”
In the interview, Aquino asked for international help in the Philippine dispute with China, insisting the country will not surrender its territory to the Superpower.
Coloma also said he has seen “developments” since the Philippines took a tough stance in defending its territories, citing the willingness of ASEAN member-countries to flesh out the document on the Code of Conduct on the Law of the Sea, which has remained dormant for more than a decade.
“We have also seen the acceptance by member-countries of the need for an ASEAN-centric position, and the clearest manifestation was made in the joint statement following the ASEAN-Japan Summit in December. This was the document that they released after meeting in Tokyo in December 2013 where they expressed solidarity on the principles of freedom of navigation, freedom of aviation, and promoting the rule of law,” he said.
He added, “So I think, all things considered, our advocacy of rules-based approach and respect for the rule of law has gained credence, has gained support from the region, and has also been affirmed by other countries such as the US and Japan that are not members of ASEAN.”
China uses the 9-dash line, a demarcation mark, to claim virtually the whole South China Sea.
The 9-dash line overlaps with the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Philippines has the sovereign rights, within its EEZ, to explore and exploit, and conserve and manage natural resources, among others. – Rappler.com
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