Locsin: Policy in West Philippine Sea 'the opposite of appeasement'
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: Policy in West Philippine Sea 'the opposite of appeasement'

Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - June 22, 2020 - 5:53pm

MANILA, Philippines — The country's top diplomat on Monday defended President Rodrigo Duterte's handling of the country's dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea, saying it is "the opposite of appeasement."

Foreign Affairs Secreraty Teodoro Locsin Jr. said this in response to retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who previously criticized the Duterte administration for what he said was the government seeking to placate China even at the cost of Philippine sovereignty.

He added that Carpio is "deliberately misinformed" in his crtique of the country's defense strategy.

"The president brings [the dispute] up himself with [Chinese President Xi Jinping]. Sometimes its not so well-received...There was one time he brought it up where I said: 'Sir, perhaps maybe you shouldnt bring it up at this moment,' [but] he did. The reception was very cold but he does bring it up straight to President Xi, and anyone who says otherwise is making things up" Locsin told ANC's "Headstart."

READ: Palace hopes 'BFF' China will prioritize Philippines once it develops COVID-19 vaccine

Carpio recently warned that China would soon reclaim Panatag Shoal after hinting that it would impose an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the South China Sea.

Panatag or Scarborough Shoal, a traditional fishing ground as ruled by a United Nations-backed tribunal in 2016, lies 124 nautical miles off the coast of Zambales.

Locsin said he is not sure if China was building an air defense system in the area and that he would ask his counterparts in the US for confirmation.

He also criticized America for what he called the former colonizer's inaction while China sought to reclaim and weaponize the area.

"Since all we have is the law and at that time the United States was very wary of committing its military resources to this region, and I think theyre not so keen about it even now, I said we must be absolutely precise in our legal responses because all we have is the law, we don't have power," Locsin told ANC.

READ: US Navy ship sails through Chinese-claimed waters in South China Sea

The Duterte administration has, though, played down incidents with China, including an incident in 2019 where a Filipino fishing boat was damaged near the Recto Bank after being hit by a Chinese vessel. The president referred to it as a "little maritime incident."

Duterte also said Chinese fishers are allowed in Philippine waters due to an unannounced deal with China.

Duterte said in 2019 that, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana were present at the bilateral meeting with China. After this meeting, Filipino fishermen were again allowed access to Scarborough Shoal, the president said.

"They asked, 'Will you allow the Chinese to fish?' I said, 'Of course,'" Duterte said, referring to opposition senators questioning his policy in the West Philippine Sea.

"'Yan ang pinag-usapan namin noon, kaya tayo nag-uusap eh. And that was we were allowed to fish again. It was a mutual agreement. Sige bigayan tayo. Fish ka doon, fish ako dito," he said then.

VFA termination

The top diplomat previously announced that the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement would be suspended for six months.

Carpio criticized the administration's earlier move of withdrawing from the VFA, saying Duterte's foreign and defense policy was in "total disarray."

"We just terminated on a whim. That is not how to conduct foreign policy, that is not how to defend our country."

He added that the subsequent move to suspend the VFA's termination signified a lack of planning.

"Suddenly we realize that because we notified the US, we are terminating the VFA we are suddenly without an ally to protect and defend Scarborough Shoal," Carpio said.

Last January, President Rodrigo Duterte announced his plan to terminate the VFA after his political ally and former police chief Sen. Ronald dela Rosa’s US visa was cancelled.

Officials claim that the move was also in response to the US Senate resolution condemning the human rights violations in the Philippines and the call made by some American senators for detained opposition senator Leila de Lima to be freed. — with reports from Patricia Viray

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