THE initiative to boycott China-made products by some groups is not supported by the Philippine government, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday.

But in a statement, the department said such initiatives by some sectors in the country and around the world are manifestations of their right to free expression.

"Both the Philippines and China have taken the position that the South China Sea dispute should not be the sum total of their relations," the statement added.

Both countries agreed to "abstract" the maritime dispute "for separate treatment and to allow the other areas of our bilateral relations to move forward."

China is one of the Philippines' largest trading partners.

Some groups, particularly the US Pinoys for Good Governance, have called for a boycott of China-made products, garments specifically, in protest to Beijing's aggression in the West Philippine Sea.

China and the Philippines have engaged in diplomatic barbs since the 2012 naval standoff at the Scarborough Shoal, putting in light decades-old dispute in the resource-rich waters.

Manila brought the dispute before the United Nations-backed International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (Itlos) in January 2013, but China refused to participate, pushing instead for a bilateral negotiation.

The UN tribunal will be hearing the Philippine government's case in an oral argument at The Hague, Netherlands on July 7-13.

China claims "indisputable sovereignty" over 90 percent of the West Philippine Sea, a 3.5-million-square-kilometer region rich with minerals and oil deposits. (CVB/Sunnex)