MANILA - Malacañang on Sunday distanced itself from a maritime incident near a disputed shoal in the South China Sea involving China and the Philippines' longtime ally the United States.
An American missile destroyer last week sailed within 12 nautical miles of Scarborough Shoal, a ring of reefs that lies about 230 kilometers from the Philippines, where Beijing's claims are contested by other nations, including Manila.
Beijing on Saturday said it had dispatched a warship to drive away the US vessel that had "violated" its sovereignty and put Chinese ships "under grave threat."
"Problema ng America iyan dahil tayo naman, iba ang ating taktika sa pakikipagsama natin sa Tsina," Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque told radio DZMM.
(That is America's problem because for our part, we have different tactics in dealing with China.)
"Dumating na po tayo sa punto na mayroon na tayong independiyenteng panlabas na relasyon at ang problema po ng Amerika ngayon ay hindi na po problema ng Pilipinas."
(We have reached a point where we have independent foreign relations, and a problem of America is no longer a problem of the Philippines.)
China in 2012 seized control of Scarborough Shoal, following a 3-month standoff where the Philippines tried to arrest Chinese fishermen found illegally hauling giant clams there.
Washington, Manila's only treaty ally, dispatched patrol vessels in the strategic waters, intensified joint patrols with Filipino troops and backed an arbitration case filed by then President Benigno Aquino III.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines in 2012 and invalidated China's historic claims to the resource-rich sea.
But Duterte has set aside the arbitral ruling as he sought to forge closer ties with Beijing.
China has stopped driving Filipino boats away from Scarborough, Roque noted.