MANILA - The Philippines should continue its "megaphone diplomacy" to counter China's "gunboat diplomacy" amid a territorial row over the West Philippine Sea, Sen. Franklin Drilon said Wednesday.
Beijing's foreign ministry called for basic etiquette after Manila's Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr tweeted an expletive-laden demand for Chinese vessels to leave the Philippines' 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) within the disputed South China Sea. Locsin has since apologized to his counterpart, Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
"I would rather that we continue with the megaphone diplomacy because of the gunboat diplomacy of China. We could not confront them, we are not strong militarily. We are nothing compared to China in terms of military strength," Drilon, the Senate minority leader, told ANC's Headstart.
"Therefore, the only available peaceful means to us is to keep this issue in the forefront, in the front burner. We must continue to expose the illegal acts of China. That is why, megaphone diplomacy—as the Chinese Foreign Ministry calls it—is maybe the appropriate course that we have to take so that we can keep China on its toes in so far as the world forum is concerned," he said.
Asked if China is taking the Philippines seriously as President Rodrigo Duterte makes a stand different from his Cabinet secretaries Locsin and Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana, Drilon said: "No, and that is simply because we are facing military and economic might of China."
"They know that they can almost dictate on the policy on the West Philippine Sea because of their economic strength and military strength. That is why I am saying, maybe the only recourse to us is the megaphone diplomacy in order to keep this issue alive in the world forum. Otherwise, if we just keep quiet, wala nang mangyayari sa atin (nothing will happen to us)," he said.
Drilon said, because he knows Locsin is a staunch patriot despite his "strong language," the secretary must be "so frustrated with the situation."
"We support Sec. Locsin, Sec. Lorenzana and I am certain that their statements reflect the sentiments of the Filipino people," he said.
Eleven senators have signed a resolution condemning China's actions in the West Philippine Sea.
China stakes historical claims on almost the entire South China Sea, within which is the smaller West Philippine Sea, but a 2016 arbitration court ruling invalidated this. The Duterte administration, however, set aside this verdict to pursue warmer relations with Beijing.