MANILA (UPDATE)—The Philippines' top diplomat on Tuesday apologized to his Chinese counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, after his expletive-laden message on Twitter demanding China to remove its ships from the West Philippine Sea.
“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,” Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. said in a tweet.
“It’s been my elusive dream to copy until I attain in mind and manner the elegance of Wang Yi. His opinion alone matters. He… mentored me in my Myanmar understanding and response. I went to China to get his advice before the ASEAN leaders summit and followed it to the letter," he added.
In a tweet on Monday, Locsin told China to "get the f*** out" of the West Philippine Sea, following Manila's protests for what it calls the "illegal" presence of hundreds of Chinese boats inside the Philippines' 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) within the disputed South China Sea.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque said Locsin also personally apologized to Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian.
“Ipinaalam niya sa akin na personal siyang nag-apologize po sa Chinese ambassador,” Roque said in a press briefing.
“Ang mga nabanggit naman po niyang salita ay dahil lang sa mga bagay-bagay na naging dahilan para uminit ang kaniyang ulo.”
(Sec. Locsin informed me that he has apologized to the Chinese ambassador. The words he said are due to things that irked him.)
Locsin confirmed Roque's statement that President Rodrigo Duterte did not ask him to apologize but that he did it on his own.
He said he realized his friendship with Wang, his "idol in diplomacy", "was on the line".
Duterte on Monday said "China remains to be our benefactor." He has repeatedly thanked Beijing for offering COVID-19 vaccines, loans and investments to the Philippines.
“Just because we have a conflict with China, does not mean to say that we have to be rude and disrespectful,” Duterte said in a taped speech.
“As a matter of fact, we have too many things [to] thank China for, the help in the past and itong mga tulong nila ngayon (and their help now),” added Duterte, who has cursed at several world leaders and officials, even God.
“Inuulit po natin, ang mensahe ng Presidente, sa larangan ng diplomasya, walang lugar ang pagmumura,” said Roque.
“Ang sabi po ng mensahe ng Pangulo sa lahat ng miyembro ng kaniyang gabinete, ang Presidente lang ang puwedeng magmura. Wala pong pupuwedeng gumaya sa kaniya,” he added.
(We repeat, the message of the President is that in diplomacy, there is no place for cursing. The message of the President to all members of his Cabinet is no one can curse. No one can copy him.)
China has been ignoring the 2016 ruling of a United Nations-backed court that junked its "historical" claims to almost the entire South China Sea, within which is the smaller West Philippine Sea.
In a statement on Monday, the Philippine foreign ministry accused China's coast guard of "shadowing, blocking, dangerous maneuvers, and radio challenges of the Philippine coast guard vessels."
The Philippines has vowed to continue maritime exercises in the West Philippine Sea in response to a Chinese demand that it stop actions it said could escalate disputes.
As of April 26, the Philippines has filed 78 diplomatic protests against China since Duterte took office in 2016, foreign ministry data shows.
Duterte for the most part has pursued warmer ties with China in exchange for Beijing's promises of billions of dollars in investment, aid and loans.
– With a report from Reuters