The Philippines does not want to hear from other countries, including Japan and the United States, what to do over a territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea, the country's top diplomat said Tuesday.
"We are a sovereign nation. We will decide what is good for us and what strategy is good for us," Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said. "We respect their views but the problem of a territorial dispute between China and the Philippines is between China and the Philippines."
Cayetano made the comments at a press conference to conclude a series of meetings in Manila from late last week involving nearly 30 foreign ministers, when asked what the Philippines thought of a joint statement issued by Australia, Japan and the United States a day before that said the dispute should be addressed based on last year's international tribunal's ruling.
"We are not pro-China, pro-U.S. pro-Japan, or pro-whatever. We are pro-Philippines and more pro-ASEAN," Cayetano said, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. "We will appreciate not being told what to do."
The Philippines has decided not to abandon but to put aside the ruling of mid-July in 2016 for the time being under the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The ruling said China's sweeping claims to historical rights in the resource-rich waters have no legal basis.
The new approach of the Philippines fits well with China, which has long insisted that territorial disputes in the South China Sea be handled only by the countries directly involved through bilateral negotiations.
Cayetano said the Philippines has taken more practical steps to maximize its national interests, improve relations with China and ease tensions in the South China Sea, a vital shipping route and a rich fishing ground with possibly large oil and natural gas deposits.
The minister said all those have been making achievements, adding, "China is not our enemy. Our policy is friends to all, enemy to none."