FOREIGN Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. on Tuesday apologized to his counterpart, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, for his expletive-laden tweets excoriating the continued presence of Chinese maritime militia vessels in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and their arrogance in telling Philippine military and fishery officials on radio, while conducting patrols, to “leave the area, this is Chinese territory.”
Locsin said, “I won’t plead the last provocation as an excuse for losing it; but if Wang Yi is following Twitter, then I’m sorry for hurting his feelings but his alone.”
Locsin said his apologies are meant only for Mr. Wang and not the Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines, Huang Xilian, who had earlier insisted the Chinese militia vessels are only seeking cover from rough seas in Julian Felipe Reef—an excuse that both Locsin and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had rejected.
“Hindi sa Chinese ambassador. Trabaho niya ay tumanggap ng reklamo o insulto. Kay State Counselor Foreign Minister Wang Yi, ang pinaka matalino at personableng diplomat sa buong mundo. [I did not apologize to the Chinese ambassador. It is his job to receive complaints and insults. It’s for State Councilor Foreign Minister Wang Yi, the most intelligent and personable diplomat in the whole world]. Harry [Roque] understands my hair-trigger temper under repeated provocation.”
Presidential Spokesman Harry L. Roque said he was informed by Locsin that he already apologized over the matter.
“Kami po ay nagkausap ni Secretary Locsin, at pinaalam po niya sa akin na personal siyang nag-apologize po sa Chinese ambassador at ang mga nabanggit naman po niyang salita ay dahil lang sa mga bagay-bagay na naging dahilan para uminit ang kaniyang ulo [I spoke with Secretary Locsin, and he told me he had apologized to the Chinese ambassador, and that the words he spoke arose from past events that made him lose his temper],” Roque said in a virtual Palace briefing
However, Locsin clarified in a tweet also on Tuesday that he did not apologize to Ambassador Huang Xilian but to Chinese State Counselor and Foreign Minister Wang.
Nonetheless, Roque pointed out that Locsin voluntarily made the apology and that the President did not ask him to do so.
Roque said Locsin’s earlier tweet does not reflect the position of the Philippine government and that the President does not tolerate cursing in the field of diplomacy.
“I am clarifying, upon express orders of the President, that this is not the policy of the Philippines. Whatever differences we have with China on the West Philippine Sea, this will not define our bilateral relations, and will not stand in the way of our cooperation with China on pandemic response, vaccine cooperation and post-pandemic recovery,” Roque said, partly in Filipino.
On Monday, Locsin tweeted: “China, my friend, how politely can I put it? Let me see… O…GET THE F… OUT. What are you doing to our friendship? You. Not us. We’re trying. You. You’re like an ugly oaf forcing your attentions on a handsome guy who wants to be a friend; not to father a Chinese province …”
“What is it so hard to understand about Duterte’s UN declaration that the Arbitral Award made all maritime features Philippines; no one else’s?” Locsin asked in another tweet.
Some netizens found his tweets unsuited to his role as the country’s top envoy.
Ally in Recto
On Tuesday, however, Locsin found an ally in Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, who described the country’s top envoy as “the knight of the King’s English,” who “can make the enemy lose face before the entire world without us losing a single man.” Locsin, son and namesake of the pioneering Free Press publisher Teodoro Locsin Sr., was a journalist-lawyer who became presidential legal counsel and speechwriter for many years.
“While we may not have missiles to launch, we possess something more potent—Locsin missives, against which no shield has been proven effective,” Sen. Recto said in a press statement on Tuesday.
He added, “In an era when diplomacy is practiced by those who ‘speak softly and carry a selfie stick,’ it pays to have a foreign affairs secretary who is brave and brilliant because it will allow our country to punch above its weight.”
Recto defended Locsin’s colorful language; “Those who are saying that he should have couched his statements in diplomatese are missing the point. This is the knight of the King’s English.”
Recto said Locsin had to resort to vulgar language because “such a tactful way has not worked with a nation who has brazenly violated our sovereignty.”
Recto said, “So it is time to convey our dismay in a language they can understand,” adding, “And we have that message delivered by our best weapon in a shouting war.”
The Philippines earlier fired off another diplomatic protest against China, objecting to “the shadowing, blocking, dangerous maneuver, and radio challenges by the Chinese Coast Guard [CCG] against the Philippine Coast Guard [PCG] vessels conducting maritime patrols and training exercises in the vicinity of Bajo de Masinloc on April 24 and 25, 2021.”
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) also protested on Monday “the incessant, illegal, prolonged, and increasing presence of Chinese fishing vessels and maritime militia vessels in Philippine maritime zones.”
The award handed down by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2016 invalidates China’s historic and expansive claim to the South China Sea, defined by a 9-dash line covering almost the entirety of the 3.5 million square miles of strategic waters, where an estimated $5 billion worth of trade sails through annually. With Bernadette D. Nicolas
Image courtesy of DFA-ASEAN