MANILA - Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay on Thursday said the Philippines is not yet ready to sit down with China to discuss matters involving the West Philippine Sea dispute.
Yasay issued the statement at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Forum in Washington D.C. on Thursday where he discussed foreign policy under the Duterte administration.
"We are not at this point in time prepared to sit down with China on bilateral engagements with respect to our dispute in the South China Sea until and unless both parties are prepared to sit down and discuss this matter," Yasay explained.
According to the country's top diplomat, China is insisting that should bilateral talks over the West Philippine Sea were to happen, the discussion should revolve on matters falling outside the arbitral tribunal's decision.
"To begin with, we cannot proceed on engaging China in bilateral talks where China says that we can only talk outside the framework of the arbitral tribunal's decision, in the same way that the Philippines is insisting that we should talk only within the framework of the arbitral tribunal's decision," the foreign affairs secretary said.
(READ: Philippines open to talks with China on S. China Sea ruling)
Yasay earlier expressed openness in engaging China in bilateral talks, especially after the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) rendered a decision in favor of the Philippines.
He earlier said that the Philippine government "will be formulating the succeeding steps in making sure that the decision...will be peacefully implemented."
"We are open to making sure that we will have bilateral talks with China in the implementation of this decision of the arbitral tribunal," he said.
Meanwhile, Yasay maintained that the country's relationship with China should not zero in on the disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea.
"The relationship of the Philippines with China is not limited to that area of the disputed territory in the South China Sea. It's a small portion of our relationship," Yasay said.
He encouraged neighboring countries, China included, to pursue other interests with the Philippines.
"We would like to continue engaging everyone, including China, our neighbors, in pursuing other interests that include trade, investments, infrastructure development, cultural exchange, people to people engagements," Yasay said.