Foreign affairs chief says it's not the 'right time' to bring up South China Sea dispute

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Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin Jr. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 15) — It's not the right time for the Philippines to bring up its dispute with China over the South China Sea, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin Jr. said Monday.

"This is actually not the right time to bring up disagreements over the South China/West Philippine Sea with both sides hot under the collar while a pissing contest is in full flower," Locsin said in a tweet.

On Sunday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said recent pronouncements of Malacañang are sufficient invocation of the 2016 ruling, which recognizes the Philippines' sovereign rights in its exclusive economic zone after China repeatedly imposed its historical nine-dash line claim over more than 90 percent of the South China Sea.

A day after, he further said President Rodrigo Duterte had already asserted the Philippines' sovereignty relative to the ruling after he asked China to lay off Pag-asa Island in the contested Spratly group. Military officials earlier reported there were over 200 Chinese vessels swarming the area from January to March this year.

But when Locsin was asked if Manila raised the ruling to China, Locsin responded: "So far we've been ignored like we ignore their historical claim. It is a contest of ignoring each other's claim. So far."

Pressed further on when he will raise the ruling, Locsin said he will decide on that matter.

China has refused to observe the ruling, and critics of Duterte said this is due to the administration's warmer ties with the East Asian giant.