Lorenzana-Locsin tandem making PH foreign policy
During the course of recent public discussions on the making of Philippine foreign policy, President Duterte flatly declared that foreign-policy making is the exclusive domain of the President of the Philippines and no other branch of the government or other government official may intrude into that domain.
But recent developments involving the two most important issues facing this country’s foreign policy—the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the U.S. and China’s aggressive behavior in the West Philippine Sea—have shown that Rodrigo Roa Duterte is not the person he claims to be where Philippine foreign policy is concerned.
The VFA discussions ended in the passing of a resolution by a majority of the Senate to file a petition in the Supreme Court seeking Senate concurrence in Mr. Duterte’s precipitate decision to abrogate the VFA. If the Constitution requires that treaties require Senate concurrence, the Senators argued, the Senate logically should have a say on whether or not a treaty should be abrogated. Needless to say, Mr. Duterte’s lawyers are vigorously opposing the Senate petition, arguing that Senate participation in treaty-making is not a two-way proposition. The Supreme Court has yet to decide the issue.
The challenge to President Duterte’s claim of foreign-policy making exclusively is even stronger on the WPS issue. The challenge has come not from outside the Executive Department but from within it - more precisely, the Cabinet. The two Cabinet members whose responsibilities are most closely related to foreign policy - Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana - have repeatedly been contradicting Mr. Duterte’s idea of a policy toward China, which consists partly of admission of this country’s inability to confront China's military and partly of a show of gratitude for vaccines and other goodies received from that communist country.
Secretary Locsin and Secretary Lorenzana will have nothing to do with China’s limp explanation for its massing of over 200 militia vessels close to yet another islet that clearly belongs to the Philippines under the terms of the pro-Philippines 2016 award of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA). The two Cabinet members, one a lawyer and the other a retired general, have been using increasing undiplomatic language in their messages to China. Locsin has vowed to file a diplomatic protest for every day that there are still Chinese militia boats close to Julian Felipe (Whitsun) islet.
Secretary Lorenzana has bluntly told the Chinese to leave Julian Felipe at once, saying that their sheltering-from-bad-weather claim was not credible. Teodoro Locsin Jr. lately has taken to profanity. Mr Locsin’s latest tweet to China read as follows “China, my friend.... GET THE FUCK OUT OF THERE…. What are you doing to our friendship?...... We’re crying/ 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.”
The way things are developing, the WPS situation has become a bout between Lorenzana-Locsin and Duterte.
Truth to tell, what is happening with regard to Philippines-China relations is totally unprecedented: Cabinet members openly opposing the President on a foreign-policy issue and virtually dictating the resolution of the issue. In all the years that I have been observing the conduct of Philippine foreign policy, I have not seen anything like it and I hope I will not see it again after June 30, 2022.
Bravo, Secretary Lorenzana and Secretary Locsin.