Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Thursday invoked the country’s arbitral award against China in the disputed South China Sea, as it said Beijing was “reading too much” into Manila’s refusal to join military exercises in the waterway.
The country’s top diplomat insisted that the Philippines had been “consistent and clear” in its stand on the West Philippine Sea.
“What is ours is ours under the Arbitral Award and no one else can tell us different,” Locsin said in a tweet.
“Our relations have been going really well. Let’s keep it that way. We’re sitting out this one, we don’t know if we will [do] the next one. Okay?”
Locsin made his remarks after Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Beijing welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s order on Tuesday prohibiting the Philippine Navy from joining the exercises in the West Philippine Sea.
“We appreciate President Duterte’s remarks and stand ready to properly resolve the maritime disputes with the Philippines through friendly consultations to jointly safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea and the entire region,” Wang was quoted in a China Global Television Network report.
The Philippines has asserted its arbitral victory against China’s sweeping claims in the disputed waterway and Locsin said the country’s position was non-negotiable.
Beijing has continued to ignore the ruling and said it was “illegal and invalid” and even warned the United States, the Philippines’ longtime ally, for its “intensified meddling.” Rey E. Requejo
Meanwhile, Locsin asked the Department of National Defense to “define properly” when it said it was “properly handling this issue in the interest of both China and the Philippines and regional peace and stability.”
In a related development, the Philippine Navy’s first missile-frigate, BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150), departed from Apra Harbor, Guam, on Wednesday, and is expected to arrive in Hawaii on Aug. 14 to participate in the two-week Rim of the Pacific or RIMPAC 2020.
“Participation in RIMPAC 2020 will serve as ‘shakedown cruise’ for the newly-acquired frigate BRP Jose Rizal to further test the ship’s seaworthiness and performance,” said Lt. Commander Ryan H. Luna, Naval Task Group 80.5 public affairs officer.
RIMPAC 2020 will run from Aug. 17 to 31 off Honolulu, Hawaii, and is described as the world’s largest joint and combined naval exercises held biennially.
The BRP Jose Rizal arrived in Guam on Aug. 2, four days after departing from Subic Bay on July 29.
The NTG 80.5 is commanded by Captain Jerry Garrido, Jr., the commanding officer of BRP Jose Rizal, and is complemented by surface, services and support components.