Top Philippine envoy says China reading too much in drill snub

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THE Philippines’ top envoy on Thursday invoked the country’s arbitral award in a sea dispute with China, and said Beijing was “reading too much” into Manila’s refusal to join military exercises in the South China Sea.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. said the country had been “consistent and clear” in its stand on the sea dispute.

“You’re reading too much into a simple directive,” Mr. Locsin told China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin.

He issued the remark after Mr. Wang said Beijing welcomed President Rodrigo R. 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,” Mr. Wang was quoted in a China Global Television Network news.

“The Philippine position has been ‘consistent and clear.’ What is ours is ours under the arbitral award and no one else can tell us differently,” Mr. Locsin said.

Also on Thursday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said 11 Filipino seamen who jumped off a ship after an explosion in Beirut have been found.

“Our Embassy in Beirut has ascertained the conditions of all 13 Filipino seafarers who were injured in the blast that rocked the city,” Foreign Affairs Under Secretary Sarah Lou Y. Arriola said in a statement.

Charge d’affaires Ajeet Panemanglor visited eight of the seafarers, who stayed at their company accommodations. The other five were at the hospital for check-ups.

The embassy said it was still looking for a Filipina housekeeper who also went missing after the blast. “She has not been located,” Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Eduardo Martin R. Meñez said in a mobile phone message.

The explosion occurred at a port warehouse that stored 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a substance used for fertilizers and explosives, according to reports.

It killed at least 135 people, including two Filipinos who were both in their employers’ home when the blast occurred.

About 32,000 Filipinos are in Lebanon, down from 33,000 in December after some of them came home amid a global coronavirus pandemic. — Charmaine A. Tadalan