MANILA - The Philippines' top diplomat on Thursday invoked the country's arbitral award against China as it said Beijing was "reading too much" into Manila's refusal to join military exercises in the disputed South China Sea.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. insisted that the country has 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. 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 the next one. Okay?" he said in a tweet.
Locsin made the remark after Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Beijing welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte's order prohibiting the Philippine Navy from joining the exercises.
"We appreciate President Duterte's remarks and stand ready to properly resolve 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.
Locsin, meantime, asked the Department of National Defense to "define properly" when it said it was "properly handling this issue is in the interest of both China and the Philippines and regional peace and stability."
The Philippines has asserted its arbitral victory against China's sweeping claims in the disputed sea was non-negotiable. Beijing has continued to ignore the ruling and said it was "illegal and invalid" and even warned the US for its "intensified meddling."