Locsin says DFA should handle China issue amid Roque remarks

Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 11 2021 10:30 PM | Updated as of May 11 2021 11:29 PM

MANILA - Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. asserted his authority to speak for the President on matters related to China and the West Philippine Sea after Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that Julian Felipe Reef is not part of the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone.

“There is only one voice on what’s ours: mine. Period. Not even the military has any say. I speak for the President on this subject,” Locsin tweeted.

He added he is “the only expert on the subject” and the issue should be left to the DFA, reacting to Roque’s statement that it was “not okay" for China to continue its militarization of the West Philippine Sea, but asked what the Philippines could do about this. 

“What can we do? Let’s try this: drop the subject and leave it entirely to the Department of Foreign Affairs under ME, the only expert on the subject bar none. I’ve known China since 1967; Chito Sta. Ramona along with me. Even the military has nothing to do with foreign affairs,” Locsin said.

Earlier, Locsin reiterated the DFA has the “last word” on the matter after Roque’s comments on Julian Felipe Reef.

“Last word on this is @DFAPHL’s and no one else.... Ask no one outside DFA,” Locsin said, reacting to Roque’s remarks.

“P*****a!” he added. 

The DFA said its position on Julian Felipe Reef remains unchanged despite what Roque said. 

“At the moment, the DFA statements on the JFR (Julian Felipe Reef) issue remain unchanged,” DFA Office of Strategic Communication and Research Executive Director Ivy Banzon-Abalos told reporters in a message.

In previous statements, the DFA maintained that “Julian Felipe Reef is part of the Kalayaan Island Group and lies in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of the Philippines.”

In an April 5 statement, the DFA also reiterated a demand of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana for the withdrawal of Chinese vessels in the area of Julian Felipe Reef and Philippine maritime zones and that it will file daily protests as long as Chinese vessels remain.

“Julian Felipe Reef is part of the Kalayaan Island Group and lies in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Republic of the Philippines. It is located 175 nautical miles west of Bataraza town in Palawan and 638.229 nautical miles from Hainan Island,” the DFA said in its April 5 statement.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs therefore reiterates the demand of the Secretary of National Defense that China immediately withdraw its fishing vessels and maritime assets in the area and vicinity of Julian Felipe Reef and in the Philippines’ maritime zones. For every day of delay, the Republic of the Philippines will lodge a diplomatic protest, it added.”

On April 12, the DFA summoned Chinese Ambassador Huang Xilian to express displeasure over the “illegal lingering presence” of Chinese vessels in Julian Felipe Reef and reiterated its “firm demand” that China “ensure the immediate departure of all its vessels from the area of Julian Felipe Reef and other maritime zones of the Philippines.

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