In this Oct. 18, 2018 photo, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. arrives at the Europa Building in Brussels, Belgium for the opening ceremony of the 12th Asia-Europe Meeting Summit. Read more at htIn this Oct. 18, 2018 photo, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. arrives at the Europa Building in Brussels, Belgium for the opening ceremony of the 12th Asia-Europe Meeting Summit.
Presidential Photo, File
Locsin on sea dispute: It is ours and they took it
Patricia Lourdes Viray ( - April 10, 2019 - 2:42pm

MANILA, Philippines — Although President Rodrigo Duterte has said he is not willing to go to war with China over disputes in the West Philippine Sea, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said he does not fear it.

Beijing claims indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea, including areas in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ) or what the country calls the West Philippine Sea.

When a netizen asked the Philippines' top diplomat about the Department of Foreign Affairs' stand on China's encroachment in the West Philippine Sea, Locsin stressed the country's sovereignty over the contested waters.

"The stand is that it is ours. And they took it. World's highest court tuled that. Period. Now the question is how to take it back," Locsin said on Twitter.

In July 2016, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that China violated its committed under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea for constructing artificial islands in the Philippines' EEZ.

The arbitral tribunal also invalidated Beijing's historic nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea. The tribunal, however, does not have an enforcement mechanism for the ruling.

"I personally have no fear of war. One attack on a public vessel triggers World War 3 with the (United States) which is impervious to attack from Asia," Locsin added.

Locsin, who was hosted by Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in China last month, said during his official visit that he hopes the Philippines will prosper alongside China, adding "the emergence of a new China is creating a world where the lesser have a chance."

"I speak for my country which wants to see much to hope for, and nothing to fear from the rise of a new power," he also said.

He said in November, after a GMA News team was barred by the Chinese Coast Guard from approaching Scarborough Shoal, that he would rather not file diplomatic protests over China's "aggression" in the West Philippine Sea.

"I was in the United Nations and I refused to [file it]. I said the filing of notes verbale basically throwing pieces of paper at a brick wall, essentially the 'Great Wall of China,'" he said then.

Duterte to China: 'Lay off' Pag-asa

Duterte has been consistent on his position that the Philippines could not wage a war with China.

"If we go to war against China, I would lose all my soldiers just as they are leaving for the war. It will be a  massacre. We don’t have the capacity to fight them," Duterte said in March.

The president, however, recently warned China not to occupy Pag-asa Island, one of the largest features in the Spratly chain. The island is under the jurisdiction of the municipality of Kalayaan in Palawan province.

The military had confirmed that hundreds Chinese vessels have been loitering in the vicinity of the island since January. The Philippine government is currently repairing its facilities, including a dilapidated runway, on the island.

“This is not a warning, this is just a word of advice to my friends, since we are friends, China. I will not plead or beg, but I’m just telling you – lay off Pag-asa because I have my soldiers there,” Duterte told reporters in Palawan last week.

Duterte's pronouncements came after the Department of Foreign Affairs issued a statement calling out the presence of Chinese vessels near and around Pag-asa Island as it violates Philippine sovereignty.

"Moreover, it has been observed that Chinese vessels have been present in large numbers and for sustained and recurring periods—what is commonly referred to as “swarming” tactics—raising questions about their intent as well as concerns over their role in support of coercive objectives," the DFA said.

"Such actions when not repudiated by the Chinese government are deemed to have been adopted by it," it added.

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