MANILA -- President Benigno Aquino III is seeking the support of Malaysia in its dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea.
In his departure speech in Manila on Thursday, Aquino said he is confident that Malaysia is for settling the dispute through peaceful means.
"Kasama natin silang naninindigan sa isang mapayapa at makatuwirang resolusyon ng usapin sa teritoryo, sa ilalim ng United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Mulat po sila na ang tunay at pangmatagalang stabilidad ay maaabot lamang kung tayo ay nakatuntong sa pundasyon ng dignidad, respeto, at ng patas na pagsunod sa batas," he said.
Malaysia itself has a territorial row with China over the James Shoal, which China calls Zengmu Reef.
Malaysia has played down the dispute in the past, in pursuit of closer economic ties with Beijing.
But two recent Chinese naval exercises around James Shoal have supposedly prompted Malaysia to quietly step up cooperation with the Philippines, and even Vietnam which also has territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea.
The Philippines is set to file a "memorial" with an arbitral tribunal by March 30, which is meant to debunk China’s nine-dash line which justifies its claim over 90% of the entire West Philippine Sea. The Philippines has invited other sea claimants to join its legal challenge to China's claim.
Yolanda, peace talks
Aquino also said he will also personally thank Malaysia for its help following the onslaught of super typhoon "Yolanda" in the Philippines last year.
"Kabilang po sa mga gagawin natin ang pagpapaabot ng taos-pusong pasasalamat sa kanilang pakikiramay sa atin sa panahon ng sakuna. Noong masalanta ang ating mga kababayan ng bagyong Yolanda, umabot ng isang milyong dolyar ang halaga ng ipinagkaloob na tulong ng Malaysia.
"Nagpadala rin ang kanilang pamahalaan ng sampung eroplanong C-130. Nagpaabot din po sila ng medical at humanitarian assistance teams, at nagpamahagi ng iba pang ayuda tulad ng mga kumot at gamot sa ating mga kababayan," he said.
The President also noted the important participation of Malaysia in the Bangsamoro peace process.
The Bangsamoro peace agreement, which Malaysia helped broker, will be on top of the agenda of Friday's discussions between Aquino and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
"Malaki rin po ang ambag nila sa pagkakamit ng tunay at pangmatagalang kapayapaan sa Muslim Mindanao. Sa kanilang suporta, napagkasunduan na natin ang mga masalimuot na annex sa ating Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, at ngayon nga po ay naghahanda na tayo sa pirmahan ng isang komprehensibong kasunduang pangkapayapaan," he said.
Aquino is on his first state visit to Malaysia.
The government is spending P9 million for the transportation, accommodation, food, equipment and other requirements of the President and his 57-member official delegation during the trip.
He is accompanied by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles, Press Secretary Herminio Coloma, Presidential Management Staff Chief Julia Andrea Abad, Mindanao Development Authority Chairperson Luwalhati Antonino, and Presidential Protocol Chief Celia Anna Feria.
According to Ochoa, Aquino is also scheduled to meet Malaysian businessmen and the Filipino community in Kuala Lumpur. – with a report from Jorge Cariño, ABS-CBN News; and ANC