'The problem of territorial disputes between China and the Philippines is between China and the Philippines,' says Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano
The Philippines criticized the United States, Japan, and Australia for releasing a joint statement that urged both Manila and Beijing to heed a 2016 international ruling on the South China Sea.
"We expect nations not to tell us what to do," Cayetano said in a press conference on Tuesday, August 8.
It was only 3 days after Cayetano and other Southeast Asian ministers told North Korea what to do: to stop its missile tests.
Cayetano said: "Japan, Australia, and the US are our friends. The US is our treaty ally. But we have told all countries around the world: We are a sovereign nation. We will decide what is good for us, what strategy is good for us, because we are a sovereign nation."
The Philippine foreign secretary was reacting to a joint statement issued by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Monday, August 7.
In the joint statement issued after a trilateral meeting in Manila, the 3 foreign ministers "called on China and the Philippines to abide by the Arbitral Tribunal's 2016 Award in the Philippines-China arbitration, as it is final and legally binding on both parties."
The ruling, issued by a Hague tribunal in July 2016, invalidated China's expansive claim over the South China Sea, parts of which the Philippines claims as the West Philippine Sea.
"We respect their views," Cayetano said. "But the problem of territorial disputes between China and the Philippines is between China and the Philippines."
The Philippine foreign secretary made these remarks at the end of the 50th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers' Meeting and Related Meetings hosted by the Philippines.
After their meeting, the ASEAN foreign ministers released a statement that cited criticism of China's island building activities and also urged the "non-militarization" of the disputed South China Sea.
Cayetano admitted that the Philippines initially wanted to exclude China's reclamation and militarization activities from the joint statement, because "it's not reflective of the present position."