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PHL tells US, Japan, Australia to keep off sea row with China

The Philippines has asked the United States, Japan and Australia not to meddle in its long-seething maritime dispute with China.

The three countries had called for full compliance to an international tribunal ruling won by the Philippines against China as regards its claims in the South China Sea.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Cayetano, at an evening news conference on Tuesday, said the matter should only be resolved by the Philippines and its giant neighbor.

“We will appreciate not being told what to do because we are a sovereign nation,” Cayetano said.

On the sidelines of a southeast Asian regional meetings in Manila over the weekend, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Australian and Japanese counterparts issued a strongly-worded joint statement, scoring militarization and land reclamation in the disputed waters.

Although there was no reference to China as a diplomatic practice in their statement, the three Asia-Pacific powers have long expressed concern over China’s aggressive actions and growing military presence in the area.

Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also claims over the disputed waters.

The US, Japan and Australia called on the Philippines and China to comply with the tribunal award – an offshoot of a complaint filed by Manila in 2013 – saying it is legally binding on both states.

The statement drew the ire of China, which has long opposed intervention by non-claimants on the sea feud.

Cayetano said he respects the views of the three countries, but stressed that “the territorial disputes between China and the Philippines is between China and the Philippines.”

In July 2016, the arbitral tribunal in The Hague ruled heavily in favor of the Philippines when it invalidated China’s historical and massive claim in South China Sea. Manila complained that Beijing’s claim infringes on the Philippines’ maritime rights.

The Philippines has adopted a friendly stance towards China since Rodrigo Duterte became president.

His decision to set aside the country's arbitration victory over South China Sea territories has improved Manila’s relations with China and allowed Filipino fishermen to return to the Scarborough Shoal as promise of huge development assistance poured in from Beijing.

However, Duterte vowed to raise the ruling with China “at a proper time.”

“We will decide what is good for us, what strategy is good for us, because we are a sovereign nation,” Cayetano said. —NB, GMA News