Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. rejected Wednesday reports that China won a diplomatic victory after the Philippines dropped a proposal to mention a landmark international court ruling against Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea in a joint statement.
In a press conference, Yasay said the Philippines never urged or asked the international community particularly ASEAN "to support us in the merits of our case."
"We simply asked them to recognize that the action we took in peacefully resolving our dispute with China was done in accordance with the principles of international law and under the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea," he said.
Yasay said the object of the ASEAN meeting in Vientiane, Laos was not the arbitral award, which threw out Beijing's sweeping claims in the South China Sea.
"The arbitral award is a matter between China and the Philippines that we will continue to resolve in a peaceful manner. The purpose of ASEAN and the purpose of that meeting was simply to address the South China Sea issue in terms of trying to resolve it consistent with the general principles of international law and the 1992 UNCLOS," he added.
He also said he pushed vigorously for the inclusion of the arbitration ruling in the joint statement but said he was happy with the final statement that mentioned the importance of international law.
Southeast Asian foreign ministers on Monday avoided making a united assessment on an international tribunal's ruling that rejected China's claims to almost the entire South China Sea.
Instead, the ministers said in general terms that they are committed to resolving regional disputes by respecting "legal and diplomatic processes, without resorting to the threat or use of force, in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea."
A Reuters report earlier said a weekend deadlock between ASEAN foreign ministers was broken only when the Philippines withdrew its request to mention the ruling in the face of resolute objections from Cambodia, China's closest ASEAN ally.
China scores diplomatic victory; PH drops plea to refer to arbitration ruling
China publicly thanked Phnom Penh for the support, which threw the regional bloc's meeting in the Laos capital of Vientiane into disarray.
A Kyodo News report said one ambassador-at-large had suggested Cambodia's expulsion from ASEAN.
Why Cambodia is portrayed as the thorn in ASEAN's side
Competing claims with China in the vital shipping lane are among the most contentious issues for the 10 members of ASEAN, who are pulled between their desire to assert their sovereignty while fostering ties with an increasingly assertive Beijing. With reports by Kyodo News and Reuters
Philippines beats China in international court