Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr. has partially apologized for a weekend tirade on Twitter over Chinese fishing vessels in an area of the South China Sea claimed by both countries, saying the gesture is to China's foreign minister "alone."

Locsin: I Apologize to Wang Yi Only

Locsin, who on Sunday used an expletive on Twitter to demand that China leave Philippine territorial waters, took to the social media site the next day to apologize to China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

In his tweet, Locsin said that if Wang Yi was reading through his Twitter posts, "then I'm sorry for hurting his feelings but his alone ... His opinion alone matters."

 Locsin went on to say that he has been wanting to "copy until I attain in mind and manner the elegance of" China's foreign minister, whom Locsin spoke with earlier last month and in January.

Before Monday's apology, Locsin said the Philippines had been "trying" to mend its strained relations with China due to the territorial dispute, adding that China was putting a wedge further down the friendship.

Also on Monday, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) also released a statement, asking China to pull back Chinese vessels that have been hanging around the Scarborough Shoal and the Kalayaan Island Group.

The DFA said the ships' presence was "unauthorized" and "a blatant infringement of Philippine sovereignty."

Flashback to January when Locsin Smiled Happily Beside Wang

In mid-January, Wang visited Manila and was welcomed by Locsin himself in Taguig City.

In photos of the meeting released by the DFA, Locsin can be seen smiling brightly as he touched elbows with Wang. The meeting was focused on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, but not much was mentioned about the sea dispute.

The DFA said in a press release that the two ministers agreed "differences on contentious maritime issues" do not define the whole of China and the Philippines' relationship.

At that time, the DFA said both ministers renewed the countries' commitment towards peace through abiding by international law and implementing mutual respect.

Was Locsin Responding to Wang Webin Instead?

With Locsin apologizing to the Chinese foreign minister for his aggressive rant on Twitter, some observers have questioned whether his comments were made after another diplomat said China "enjoys sovereignty" in several disputed territories.

Last week, spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry, Wang Webin, was asked for a comment about the Philippine coastguard beginning to drill in the South China Sea.

Wang Webin was quoted by the Chinese foreign ministry's website to have said that China's sovereignty remains "over Nansha Islands including Zhongye Island and Zhongsha Islands, including Huangyan Island and their adjacent waters."

The Philippines refers to Huangyan Island as Bajo de Masinloc. The area is a reef collection that lies around 120 nautical miles from the nearest Philippine coast.

On the other hand, Bajo de Masinloc measures around 470 nautical miles from the nearest Chinese coast.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, when asked for a Malacañang comment over Locsin's tweet, said the palace will not meddle in Locsin's "free-speech rights."

So far, China has not yet responded to Locsin's comments.