The Chinese foreign ministry rebuked Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Tuesday, telling him to mind his manners and act in a way that suited his status despite the simmering issues between the countries in the West Philippine Sea.
Chinese Ministry on Foreign Affairs spokesman Wang Wenbin said “a certain individual in the Philippine government” should act more like the country’s top diplomat.
"Facts have proven time and time again that megaphone diplomacy can only undermine mutual trust rather than change reality," Wenbin said in response to Locsin's "insulting remarks on his personal social media account."
He also asked the Philippines to "stop taking actions that may complicate the situation," claiming that Scarborough Shoal was part of China's jurisdiction.
Wang echoed President Rodrigo Duterte's statements that the sea dispute should not affect the ties between China and the Philippines.
"China has always been and will remain committed to properly handling differences and advancing cooperation with the Philippines through friendly consultation, and will continue to provide assistance within its capacity to the Philippines in its efforts to fight the epidemic and resume economic development," he said.
Locsin apologized to his Chinese counterpart Tuesday for tweeting that China should “get the fuck out of the West Philippine Sea,” after he was dressed down by President Rodrigo Duterte for his remarks.
The Palace on Tuesday said “to be rude and disrespectful” to other countries is not the policy of the Duterte administration.
Duterte reminded Cabinet members to avoid using expletives in their remarks, unlike the President who often curses on live television because “this is who I really am.”
“The President’s message to all Cabinet members: Only the President can curse. No one else can follow him. The President’s message is there is no room for expletives in the field of diplomacy,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
He said Locsin’s remark against China was part of free speech but is in no way any part of the Philippine government’s policy.
“Locsin’s statement is his personal view,” Roque said in a press briefing.
He also said Locsin had called Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian to apologize for his remark.
“Secretary Locsin personally apologized. In diplomacy, there is no place for profanities," Roque said.
“Secretary Locsin and I talked and he told me that he personally apologized to the Chinese ambassador. He said his statement was due to the issues that caused him to lose his cool,” Roque said.
But Locsin said he only apologized to his counterpart, Chinese Foreign Minister and State Councilor Wang Yi, for using profanity and “nobody else.”
“To my friend Wang Yi only. Nobody else,” Locsin said, reacting to reports that he had apologized to the Chinese government for spewing profanity in a tweet attacking the presence of Chinese ships in the country’s EEZ in the West Philippine Sea.
Locsin said he did not believe he shot himself in the foot when he apologized but spoke instead of his friendship with his Chinese counterpart.
“Our friendship is open and candid; we talk out issues after the formal presentation of this or that complaint or initiative. Last meeting for one hour lasted three; mostly on what might best be done in bad situations. I’d deeply regret losing his friendship,” he said.
In a pre-recorded speech Monday night, Duterte said the country’s conflict with China over the disputed waters is not a reason to be rude and disrespectful towards them as they remain the country’s “benefactor.”
Roque echoed Duterte’s remarks, saying the Philippines’ differences with China “will not define” the two nations’ bilateral relations.
“Whatever differences we have with China over the West Philippine Sea, it [sic] will not define our bilateral relations and it will not be a barrier to our friendship with China and deep cooperation in the pandemic response, vaccine cooperation, and post-pandemic recovery,” Roque said.
Tensions between the Philippines and China have been rising since more than 200 Chinese vessels were seen moored at Julian Felipe (Whitsun) Reef, which is within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Duterte, who previously thanked China for its donated vaccines, noted that the Philippines owed a lot to its giant neighbor to the north.
“As a matter of fact, we have many things to thank China for their help in the past and the help they’re giving now,” he added.
While the Palace distanced itself from Locsin’s remarks, senators hailed the foreign affairs chief for standing up to China.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said Locsin allowed the Philippines to punch above its weight by giving China a tongue-lashing over its illegal intrusion in the West Philippine Sea.
"Mabuhay po kayo (Long live) Secretary Locsin!" Recto said.
“While we may not have missiles to launch, we possess something more potent—Locsin missives, against which no shield has been proven effective,” Recto said. "He can make the enemy lose face before the entire world without us losing a single man.”
Senator Panfilo Lacson, on the other hand, pushed for a review of the country’s diplomatic ties with China.
Lacson pointed out the Philippines must become "innovative and creative" in approaching the issue as diplomatic protests no longer seem effective. "There are so many possibilities to explore," he said.
He said the review should go hand in hand with seeking stronger alliances with the more militarily powerful countries like the United States, Australia, Japan and some European Union countries to maintain the balance of power in the region as China has already made at least three incursions into Philippines EEZ – Scarborough Shoal, Panatag Shoal, and now Julian Felipe Reef.
"Maybe a review of the country’s diplomatic relations is timely and called for. All the diplomatic protests that the secretary of Foreign Affairs filed have been ignored as if nothing was filed at all. The continued incursions and bullying finally got his goat," Lacson said.
"What kind of friend--or benefactor--would take what is ours, bully us, and ignore our protests?" Lacson said.
Lacson also said the Senate should throw its support behind Locsin.
Senator Leila de Lima has decried Duterte’s recent remark declaring that the Philippines should not be rude and disrespectful to China.
She said the admonition should be aimed at China, which has shown its disrespect of the country’s sovereignty by refusing to recognize the Philippines’ EEZ in the West Philippine Sea.
"In yet another proclamation of his treason against his own country and declaration of his love and loyalty for another, Duterte said that the Philippines should not be rude to China, making it sound like we are the bully and China is the aggrieved, when it is clearly the other way around,” she said.
De Lima said Duterte’s treason and kowtowing to China are grave insults to all Filipino who care for the Philippines and its people.
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