Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin on Wednesday bristled at presidential spokesman Harry Roque’s assertion that the Julian Felipe Reef is not part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ), saying only he had the authority to speak for the President on matters related to China and the West Philippine Sea.
“There is only one voice on what’s ours: mine. Period. Not even the military has any say. I speak for the President on this subject,” Locsin said on his Twitter account.
He also chided Roque for asking what the Philippines could do to stop China’s continued militarization of the West Philippine Sea.
“What can we do? Let’s try this: drop the subject and leave it entirely to the Department of Foreign Affairs under ME, the only expert on the subject bar none. I’ve known China since 1967; (PH Ambassador to China) Chito Sta. Romana along with me. Even the military has nothing to do with foreign affairs,” Locsin said.
Earlier, Locsin said the DFA has the “last word” on the matter.
The DFA said its position on Julian Felipe Reef remains unchanged despite Roque’s statement.
“At the moment, the DFA statements on the JFR (Julian Felipe Reef) issue remain unchanged,” the department said.
In previous statements, the DFA said Julian Felipe Reef is part of the Kalayaan Island Group and lies in the country’s EEZ.
Roque on Wednesday sought to smooth Locsin’s ruffled feathers, saying he had talked to the Foreign secretary about the issue and that they are both fine.
But opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday urged the Palace to stop peddling lies about the Julian Felipe Reef.
She also accused Roque of being overly eager to side with the Chinese.
“Instead of strengthening our efforts to claim ownership of what rightfully belongs to us, they are even leading in giving our territories to another country,” she said.
“His statement also dishonors the statements of the DND, the reports of the NTF-WPS, the patrols of the Philippine Navy, Philippine Coast Guard, and BFAR, and the stories of our own fisherfolk. And this goes against all the diplomatic protests lodged by the DFA, the main channel which our country must use to resolve disputes with foreign countries,” Hontiveros said.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III added that he would only listen to Locsin when it came to foreign affairs.
Senator Francis Pangilinan asked if Roque was getting his salary from China.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III said the executive branch needs to “follow a script, written by the DFA.”