‘Only Duterte can curse’: Palace says Locsin sorry for Twitter rant vs China

Bella Perez-Rubio - Philstar.com
�Only Duterte can curse�: Palace says Locsin sorry for Twitter rant vs China
In this Oct. 18, 2018 photo, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. represents President Rodrigo Duterte at the 12th Asia-Europe Meeting Summit and EU-ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting in Brussels, Belgium.
Presidential Photo

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 5:48 p.m.) — Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has apologized for swearing at China on his Twitter account amid tensions over the West Philippine Sea, Malacañang said Tuesday. 

Locsin, who posts freely and often on the social networking site, the day before told China to "get the fuck out" of Philippine waters. "Usual suave diplomatic speak gets nothing done," he also said then, in defense of his remarks. 

"Before the press briefing, 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," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in Filipino. 

"The message of the president is: In the area of diplomacy, there is no place for cursing," he added. "Only the president can curse, no one else can copy him."

Locsin has since disputed Roque's remarks, saying he apologized only to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and not China's envoy to the Philippines Huang Xilian.   

Roque then launched into a rundown of China-assisted development projects under the Duterte administration. 

Locsin earlier Tuesday issued a public apology to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Twitter. "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." 

He also went on to effusively praise Wang, saying: "It’s been my elusive dream to copy until I attain in mind and manner the elegance of Wang Yi. His opinion alone matters." 

Ties with China have considerably warmed under President Rodrigo Duterte.

The president himself is known to swear at international leaders and organizations but holds his fire for China, choosing instead to consistently express his gratitude to the regional power. 

China insists on sovereignty over Panatag, tells Locsin to 'mind basic manners'  

A day after Locsin's controversial remarks on social media, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin urged a "certain individual from the Philippines" to "mind basic manners and act in ways that suit his status." 

He also repeated China's claim that it has jurisdiction over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal — which it calls Huangyan Island — and adjacent waters.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has repeatedly disputed this claim and, according to the 2016 arbitral ruling, Panatag is a traditional fishing ground.  

In agreement with statements made by Duterte, Wang said "differences and disputes between the two countries on some issues should not affect the overall friendship and cooperation, which is also an important consensus reached by China and the Philippines on many occasions." 

"China has always been and will remain committed to properly handling differences and advancing cooperation with the Philippines through friendly consultation, and will continue to provide assistance within its capacity to the Philippines in its efforts to fight the epidemic and resume economic development," he added. 

Duterte now says he never mentioned China in 2016 campaign 

Duterte during a public address aired Monday night incorrectly claimed that he never mentioned ties between China and the Philippines during his campaign for the presidency.

"I did not promise that I would pressure China. I never mentioned about China and the Philippines in my campaign because that was a very serious matter," he said to address criticism for the administration's policy on the West Philippine Sea. "I never, never in my campaign as president promised the people that I would retake the West Philippine Sea." 

But Duterte took a hardline stance on China and its incursions in the West Philippine Sea — the part of the South China Sea in the Philippines' Exclusive Economic Zone — during his campaign, even saying he would ride a jet ski to the Spratlys to stake Manila's claim.

Two years into his presidency, he said the remark was just a joke, expressing surprise that people took it seriously.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio on Tuesday called out Duterte for walking back his remarks, saying that candidate Duterte had issued a formal statement in support of the Philippines' arbitration case against China. 

The government has played down the 2016 ruling in that case that said that China's sweeping claims over the South China Sea have no basis in international law.

"President Duterte cannot now say that he never discussed or mentioned the West Philippine Sea issue when he was campaigning for president. Otherwise, he would be admitting that he was fooling the Filipino people big time," Carpio added. 

"There is a term for that — grand estafa  or grand larceny. Making a false promise to get [16] million votes." 

Lacson seeks review of Philippines-China ties 

Citing China's "recent incursions and bullying" in the West Philippine Sea, Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday called for a review of the diplomatic ties between Manila and Beijing. 

"What kind of friend — or benefactor — would take what is ours, bully us, and ignore our protests?" he questioned. 

Lacson, who chairs the Senate defense panel, further noted that the issue of the West Philippine Sea should not be connected to other matters such as vaccine donations. 

"We should have a united stand on the West Philippine Sea, and this should not be connected to any other issue except sovereignty and territorial integrity." 

He also reiterated the call from several senators for stronger alliances with countries boasting strong militaries such as the United States, Australia, Japan, and nations in the European Union to maintain the balance of power in the region. 

READ: Senators push ‘united stand’, multilateral approach on South China Sea disputeLIST: World powers that criticized China's maritime militia ships at West Philippine Sea reef

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