MANILA: The Philippines’ foreign secretary apologised on Tuesday after tweeting an obscene phrase demanding China get out of Philippine-claimed territory in the South China Sea in an outburst that annoyed the Philippine president.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. blasted China with the profanity on Monday, when the Department of Foreign Affairs announced it had protested the Chinese coast guards shadowing, blocking, dangerous maneuver and radio challenges of Philippine coast guard ships patrolling and carrying out exercises from April 24 to 25 at disputed Scarborough Shoal.
Locsin also compared China to an “ugly oaf which was forcing your attentions on a handsome guy who wants to be a friend”.
Locsin said he was apologising only to his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, to ensure their friendship would continue. “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 tweeted.
President Rodrigo Duterte, who has nurtured friendly ties with China and its leaders since taking office in 2016, expressed his irritation in televised remarks on Monday night.
“Just because we have a conflict with China does not mean to say that we have to be rude and disrespectful,” Duterte said. “We have many things to thank China for the help in the past and its assistance now.”
China has donated and sold Covid-19 vaccines to the Philippines, which has struggled to secure enough doses to immunise up to 70 million Filipinos amid tight global supplies. Unlike Western governments, China also has not criticised Duterte’s bloody anti-illegal drug crackdown, which has left thousands of mostly petty suspects dead and alarmed human rights groups.
The Philippines has issued dozens of diplomatic protests to China over the territorial dispute. Locsin and Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana have also issued increasingly acerbic remarks against Chinese actions in the disputed waters, despite Duterte’s overtures to Beijing.
The escalating feud between Manila and Beijing started after more than 200 Chinese vessels suspected by Philippine authorities to be operated by militias were spotted in early March at Whitsun Reef. Lorenzana and Locsin demanded the vessels leave, then the government deployed navy and coast guard vessels to the area. China said it owns the reef and the Chinese vessels were sheltering from rough seas.