The Chinese Foreign Ministry interrupted its five-day “May Day” holiday on Tuesday to condemn Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin for telling China to “get the fuck out” of Philippine territories in the South China Sea during a weekend Twitter tirade.
China has posted hundreds of ships – Beijing claims they are fishing vessels, but Manila insists there is evidence to believe they are maritime militia vessels – near Julian Felipe Reef, a Philippine territory, since March. China insists they are present in Chinese sovereign waters and has refused to move them. President Rodrigo Duterte has made flippant comments about involving the United States in war with China over the latter’s illegal claims in the South China Sea but has taken no major measures to reclaim the area. Duterte has authorized, however, maritime patrols meant to assert sovereignty over the region.
China claims that it is sovereign over nearly the entire South China Sea. Territories belonging to the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei appear within China’s “five-dash line,” allegedly detailing Chinese territory. In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague ruled that China’s claims were illegal in a case filed by the Philippines under former President Benigno Aquino III.
The Chinese Communist Party vowed at the time to ignore the ruling and has engaged in widespread illegal construction, particularly in the Philippines and Vietnam. It has also undertaken missions like the invasion of Julian Felipe Reef in various South China Sea formations.
Referring to Scarborough Shoal, another Philippine territory, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin issued a special statement on Tuesday condemning Locsin for urging China to leave Philippine sovereign waters.
“The Huangyan Island [Scarborough Shoal] is China’s territory and its adjacent waters are under China’s jurisdiction. China urges the Philippine side to earnestly respect China’s sovereignty and jurisdiction, and stop taking actions that may complicate the situation,” Wang said. “Facts have proven time and time again that megaphone diplomacy can only undermine mutual trust rather than change reality.”
Wang did not concede that Manila may have legitimate complaints, even though the Hague’s ruling is technically binding.
“We hope that certain individual [sic] from the Philippine side will mind basic manners and act in ways that suit his status,” Wang said, referring to Locsin.
Locsin’s tenor this weekend differed significantly from Wang’s.
“China, my friend, how politely can I put it? Let me see… O… GET THE FUCK OUT,” Locsin wrote on Twitter, where he often uses profanity in discussing international issues, on Sunday.
“What are you doing to our friendship?” Locsin asked. “You. Not us. We’re trying. You. 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 …”
Locsin’s remarks followed Duterte himself stating in April regarding the maritime dispute, “for me, there is no other way but a war.” He clarified that he did not want the Philippines to engage directly in war but to force the United States to fight on Manila’s behalf.
“If we promote a war against China and America, it can be accelerated. But at what cost to us? That is the problem. But we can retake it only by force,” Duterte said. “There is no way that we can get back what they call [the West] Philippine Sea without any bloodshed. That’s true.”
Duterte has repeatedly made similar statements asserting that he does not believe that the Philippine military can fare well in a war against China’s People’s Liberation Army.
Locsin had changed his tone significantly by Tuesday, describing Wang’s statement as “damn decent” in not identifying Locsin by name and effusively praising Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
“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,” Locsin insisted. He reiterated in a separate message that his apology was “to my friend Wang Yi only. Nobody else.”
Generally, he said of his remarks, “Many any [sic] ways to skin a cat; a cleaver is not the right instrument.”
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 any ways to skin a cat; a cleaver is not the right instrument. https://t.co/7xWAaAECgj
— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) May 4, 2021
Locsin regularly uses provocative language on a wide variety of issues on Twitter. One such incident earned him a suspension. In March 2020, he wrote on the platform of a Philippine terrorist group, “theses [sic] are fucking Communists. You shoot them. You don’t listen to them.”
Then Duterte spokesman Salvador Panelo defended Locsin, saying that his tone was also “the president’s style.”
Since becoming president in 2016, Duterte has developed a reputation for profanity-laced tirades, particularly death threats against terrorists and members of the Catholic clergy. Duterte has referred to Pope Francis as a “son of a whore” and urged followers to “kill bishops.” He claims to have been a victim of child sex abuse at the hands of an American priest working in the Philippines, fueling his distaste for the nation’s majority religion.