POSTSCRIPT / May 6, 2021 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Locsin cursing China impolite, but justified

FOREIGN Secretary Teddy Locsin Jr. was not running out of paper for diplomatic protests, but must have been losing patience, when he hurled Monday a curse-laced message at China over its occupation and claim of sovereignty over Philippine maritime areas.

This Filipino and, I dare presume, countless others stood by the foreign secretary when he dropped all diplomatic pretense, but still pleading friendship, and fired this tweet:

“China, my friend, how politely can I put it? Let me see… O…GET THE FUCK 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.”

A follow-up shot asked: “What is it so hard to understand about President Duterte’s UN declaration that the Arbitral Award made all maritime features Philippines; no one else’s?”

Locsin was referring to Duterte’s address on Sept. 22, 2020, to the UN 75th General Assembly wherein he cautioned against “rising geopolitical tensions and new flashpoints, heightening fears and tearing people apart”.

Calling on the stakeholders in the South China Sea, the Korean Peninsula, the Middle East, and Africa, Duterte pleaded, “If we cannot be friends as yet, then in God’s name, let us not hate each other too much.”

The Arbitral Award mentioned was the ruling handed down on July 12, 2016, by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague invalidating China’s claim over most of the South China Sea, which overlaps the West Philippine Sea, for lacking legal and factual basis.

The foreign office files a protest every day that China’s illegal activities in Philippine waters continue. Locsin’s outburst on Twitter came after he received reports again that Chinese Coast Guard ships were still operating at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off Zambales.

Panatag is only 220 kilometers from Masinloc, Zambales, versus 980 km from Hainan, the nearest landmass in China. The shoal lies within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone that extends out 370 km (200 nautical miles) from the coast of Luzon.

If China insists on controlling Panatag, it will have to flex its vaunted influence to gain access to a station or facility in the Zambales-Subic Bay area or in Davao, so its vessels do not have to travel 1,960 (980×2) km to and from Hainan to refuel and resupply.

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CHINA keeps proclaiming to the world that Beijing has sovereignty over Panatag which it refers to as Huangyan Dao, as well as the Spratly group that includes Pag-asa, a thriving island-town of Palawan.

Its foreign ministry said the other day that “megaphone diplomacy (presumably referring to Locsin’s tweets) can only undermine mutual trust rather than change reality”.

Locsin retorted: “No megaphone; it was an outburst of temper under repeated provocations in close succession by China against its Philippine neighbor which has kept reaching out for a measure of respect. It won’t happen again. Many ways to skin a cat; a cleaver is not the right instrument.”

Manila’s protests filed Monday cited the “shadowing, blocking, dangerous maneuver and radio challenges” by Chinese ships on Philippine Coast Guard vessels on maritime patrol and training exercises April 24-25.

The foreign office also protested the “incessant, illegal, prolonged and increasing presence of Chinese fishing vessels and maritime militia vessels in Philippine maritime zones.”

Maritime law enforcement agencies have confirmed the presence of hundreds of Chinese ships around Pag-asa (Thitu) Island, Zamora (Subi) Reef, Panata (Lankiam) and Kota (Loaita) Islands, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, Quirino (Jackson) Atoll and Panatag from Jan. 1 to March 18.

The protests, however, have suffered a “Mona Lisa” fate – “they just lie there and they die there”. The ignoring of Manila’s protests and Beijing’s claim of sovereignty appear to have helped heat up Locsin to boiling point.

“This snapped my patience if you wanna know,” he tweeted. He explained that “Usual suave diplomatic speak gets nothing done.”

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MALACAÑANG’S fire-fighting brigade, ever careful not to offend Duterte’s friend and benefactor, has rushed out to tell the public that Locsin had apologized for telling China to “get the fuck out” of Philippine waters.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in Filipino, “I spoke with Secretary Locsin and he informed me that he personally apologized to the Chinese ambassador and that the words he said were prompted by things that made him lose his temper.”

He added that the President wants it known that “in the area of diplomacy, there is no place for cursing, and that only the President can curse, no one else can copy him.”

While everybody knows that Duterte curses with the least, sometimes even without, provocation, it was only on Monday when Malacañang announced that Duterte holds the presidential patent on cursing or using vulgar language.

But Locsin has a different version of what he did, clarifying on Twitter that he apologized only to his opposite number, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and not to China’s ambassador as claimed by Roque.

Without prompting from the Palace, Locsin has tweeted: “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.

“It’s been my elusive dream to copy until I attain in mind and manner the elegance of Wang Yi. His opinion alone matters. He mentored me in my Myanmar understanding and response. I went to China to get his advice before the ASEAN leaders’ summit and followed it to the letter.”

Locsin may have overexposed (in my opinion) his personal disposition on his way to Jakarta last month for the ASEAN summit on the Myanmar crisis, but he added context to his cursing China for its incursions into Philippine maritime areas.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 6, 2021)

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