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Philippines Foreign Secretary Apologizes for Using Profanity Against China

2021-05-04 -- Manila's top diplomat apologized to Beijing's ambassador for his expletive-laced public criticism of Chinese actions in the South China Sea, a Philippine government spokesman said Tuesday, adding that only President Rodrigo Duterte was allowed to use profanity.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. was told to refrain from cursing, especially in matters of diplomacy, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said at a daily news briefing.

"I am making it clear that upon the express orders of the president, this is not the policy of the Philippines," Roque told reporters, adding that he relayed the message to Locsin on Tuesday morning.

"Before this press briefing, Secretary Locsin and I talked and he told me that he has personally apologized to the Chinese ambassador. The president's message was, in diplomacy, there is no room for profanities. The president's message to his Cabinet members is that, only he is allowed to swear. No one can copy him."

Via Twitter a day earlier, Locsin, who is known for airing blunt and colorful comments on social media, ripped into Beijing over the lingering presence of Chinese ships in the waters of the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Roque indicated that Locsin's outburst arose from strong emotions over China's continued refusal to remove its ships from Philippine-claimed areas in the South China Sea.

The foreign secretary had "said his outburst was because of some issues that made him hot headed," according to Roque.

Locsin had tweeted on Monday, saying, "China, my friend, how politely can I put it? Let me see… O … Get the [expletive] out. What are you doing to our friendship?"

The foreign secretary again took to Twitter later that day to say he wanted Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to hear that he was sorry, because he admired his counterpart from Beijing.

"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. His opinion alone matters."

The bilateral diplomatic spat began in March, when Manila said that its maritime patrols had spotted some 240 Chinese ships moored together in and around Whitsun Reef, which Beijing also claims. Manila said that the Chinese ships were crewed by maritime militia, but at the time, Beijing responded by saying that the vessels were fishing boats sheltering from stormy weather.

The Chinese ships have since diminished in numbers but scattered to other waters in the Philippine EEZ, Manila said lately.

'Megaphone diplomacy'

Meanwhile on Tuesday, China's foreign ministry spokesman, Wang Wenbin, stressed that the Scarborough Shoal belonged to Beijing.

"The Huangyan Island is China's territory and its adjacent waters are under China's jurisdiction," Wang said, using the Chinese name for the shoal. Both Beijing and Manila claim this reef located in the Spratly Islands.

"China urges the Philippine side to earnestly respect China's sovereignty and jurisdiction, and stop taking actions that may complicate the situation.

Wang was referring to a Philippine statement a day earlier that Manila had "sovereignty and jurisdiction" over Scarborough Shoal and its coast guard therefore had the right to conduct maritime patrols and exercises there.

Manila had also called on the China Coast Guard to stop harassing its Filipino counterpart's members patrolling areas in the South China Sea that lie within Manila's EEZ.

Beijing has never recognized a 2016 U.N.-backed tribunal's ruling, which affirmed the Philippines' sovereign rights in the waterway.

Wang alluded to Locsin in another of his comments.

"We hope that [a] certain individual from the Philippine side will mind basic manners and act in way that suits his status," Wang said, noting that "megaphone diplomacy" would undermine mutual trust.

"Just as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said, the 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."

In a late-night cabinet meeting Monday, Duterte said that China had been a very good friend to the Philippines, so Manila could not afford to be "rude and disrespectful."

His country owed China for many things, the Philippine president said. He did not elaborate, but had profusely thanked Beijing recently for sending COVID-19 vaccines when global deliveries had been delayed.

He also hit out at his critics who have often cited a promise he made on the campaign trail, in which Duterte said that he would ride a jet ski and plant a Philippine flag in Chinese-held territory in the South China Sea.

"I never, never in my campaign for president promised the people that I would retake the West Philippine Sea," Duterte said, referring to Manila's designation for claimed territory in the South China Sea.

"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."

Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

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