Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Wednesday vowed to continue criticizing the aggressive behavior of China, one day after apologizing for telling it to “get the f**k out” of the West Philippine Sea.
While acknowledging that he did not use “the right instrument” in delivering his message, he would remain uncompromising in his position that the Scarborough Shoal and the entirety of the West Philippine Sea belong to the Philippines “not by mere claim but by absolute right and legal victory.”
“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 many ways to skin a cat; a cleaver is not the right instrument,” Locsin said, in response to the Chinese foreign ministry’s statement calling his tweeting habit “megaphone diplomacy.”
In the Senate, Locsin continued to gain support.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he knew Locsin well as being “very patriotic.”
He said his Twitter outburst was probably due to frustration at not being able to do much except file diplomatic protests that China has ignored.
“Again, the megaphone diplomacy is probably the only weapon that we have today. We must keep this in the consciousness not only of the Philippines but of the whole world,” said Drilon, saying the country cannot compete with China’s gunboat diplomacy in the West Philippine Sea.
On Tuesday, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said Locsin allowed the Philippines to punch above its weight by giving China a tongue-lashing over its illegal intrusion in the West Philippine Sea.
"Mabuhay po kayo (Long live) Secretary Locsin!" Recto said.
“While we may not have missiles to launch, we possess something more potent – Locsin missives, against which no shield has been proven effective,” Recto said. "He can make the enemy lose face before the entire world without us losing a single man.”
Also on Wednesday, a US-based security analyst praised Locsin for his profane tweet.
Speaking to the ANC news channel, Anders Corr of the New York-based Corr Analytics said Locsin’s tweet was “a breakthrough” in terms of how Manila was approaching its dispute with Beijing.
"I think the foreign secretary has made a very courageous statement. It was from his heart. It was ultimately the right thing to say in terms of the strength of his words," Corr said.
"I think we do need to start being more clear with Beijing, being more direct in our language not only the Philippines but the United States and the European Union."
“As long as we're being polite with Beijing, they know they can keep pushing and taking more territory," he added.
Locsin said China is free to say whatever it wants, except claims on Philippine waters.
“Every drop of water and every feature within our exclusive economic zone -- and outside it like Pag-asa --is ours and not and never China’s. The President no less said it before the UN General Assembly,” Locsin said.
The Foreign Affairs secretary noted that in reclaiming some features in the West Philippine Sea, China did not occupy any islands but converted them using sand from the Philippines.
“They didn’t illegally occupy any islands. They took a reef of coral and water and poured sand to make it a sandbar then poured cement to make it a tarmac. Guess where they took the sand from? The Visayas. In yet another way Scarborough is ours: our coral beneath our sand above,” he said.
Locsin heeded the suggestions made by the Chinese foreign ministry for him to observe proper decorum.
He also said he would mind China’s suggestion to “mind basic manners” in a way that befits his status as the country’s top diplomat.
“I did it well with China in the UN. I just lost it. But these constant provocations…no they’re no excuse for dropping manners,” Locsin said.
Nonetheless, Locsin said he only lost his temper when he was “provoked by the latest grossest territorial violation,” in reference to the reported “belligerent actions” by Chinese coast guard in Bajo De Masinloc against the Philippine Coast Guard personnel undergoing training exercises in the area.
On Tuesday, Malacañang chastised Locsin for being rude and disrespectful toward China, prompting him to apologize to his “friend” and counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Drilon said the statements of Locsin and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana reflect the sentiment of the majority of Filipinos.
“We are all frustrated by what China is doing,” he said, adding that Beijing is not taking the country seriously.
He underscored the need for the Philippines to continue exerting pressure on China.
“I would rather that we continue with the megaphone diplomacy because of the gunboat diplomacy of China,” Drilon said, adding that the Philippines must continue to expose China’s illegal acts.
He added that the Philippines needs to keep world attention on China so that it will realize that it is becoming isolated because of the way they have been conducting themselves.
“Otherwise, if we just keep quiet, nothing will happen,” he said.
The minority leader also described as “quite unfortunate” that there seem to be “different voices” in the government when it comes to China's illegal incursions into Philippine territory.
“It is quite unfortunate, because you have two members of the Cabinet, Secretary Locsin, and Secretary Lorenzana, taking a strong position on this issue. On the other end of the scale, President Duterte who asserts that we must continue our cordial relations with China. This is quite unfortunate that we are talking [with] different voices,” Drilon said.
Drilon also urged the country to lead a group of nations with claims on the West Philippines Sea or South China Sea, such as Vietnam and Taiwan, to confront China.
“We should keep on reminding the world that China is not following the rule of law but the rule of might in this part of the world,” he added.