MANILA - Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. said the Philippines has pulled out of talks with China to explore and exploit possible oil and gas reserves in the West Philippine Sea.
Locsin said the Philippines pulled out because the government cannot renounce Constitutional limits.
In his speech during the 124th DFA Foundation Day, Locsin said the talks were terminated completely upon the instructions of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Locsin did not disclose when the discussions were stopped.
"Just because we have differences does not mean we have to fight over everything. In that spirit I tried for three years to come to an agreement to facilitate exploration for and exploitation of oil and gas in the West Philippine Sea. We got as far as it is constitutionally possible to go,” he said.
“One step forward from where we stood on the edge of the abyss is a drop into constitutional crisis. That explains the sudden pull-back on my part which unravelled three years of sincere hard work on the part of Wang Yi and me. We had both tried to go as far as we could — without renouncing China’s aspiration on his part; and constitutional limitations on my part. I shut down shop completely," Locsin added.
“The president had spoken. I carried out his instructions to the letter: oil and gas discussions are terminated completely. Nothing is pending; everything is over. Three years on and we had not achieved our objective of developing oil and gas resources so critical for the Philippines — but not at the price of sovereignty; not even a particle of it,” he said.
As he prepared to step down from office, Locsin reiterated the Philippines did not weaken its right to the West Philippine Sea as he took pride in foreign policy accomplishments during President Duterte’s watch.
This includes upholding the rule of law and holding on to UNCLOS and the 2016 arbitral award, describing them as “the twin anchors of the Philippine position on the West Philippine and South China Seas.”
He also cited the filing of diplomatic protests “to every intrusion.”
“Let me say one thing: we have not surrendered a single inch of territory or a drop of our waters. Not by word or deed have we weakened our right to everything in the West Philippine Sea,” Locsin said.
“Without inviting pity by asking, we achieved an international consensus that right is with us and might cannot ever take it away. In the 21st century, the first incontestable and most significant victory at sea is Filipino.”
He also said that the Philippines, during negotiations for a code of conduct in the South China Sea, insisted on not excluding other powers though clarified that “China has never asked for that.”
“To be fair, China has never asked for that. If her interest is harnessing the stopping power of water to stall an attack on herself, then littoral states like ours can give her ample forewarning. We have a mutual defense treaty with our only conceivable military ally. We have no joint aggression pact with any power,” Locsin said.
Locsin said it is now up to the next administration to protect the country’s sovereignty, saying the surrender “of any portion of Philippine sovereignty is not an option.”
“It remains with the new administration to protect our sovereignty all the way to the wire. And now I can rest. The irreducible template of what is constitutionally possible is there in black and white. Surrender of any portion of Philippine sovereignty is not an option. Not for love; not for money. I thank my immediate team. Their names I will not say; the country still needs them to protect our country’s sovereignty,” he said.
Locsin also mentioned as among the DFA’s accomplishments: the return of the Balangiga bells and retention of the Philippine seat in the Human Rights Council.
“We rejected the lying narratives of our human rights record; and retained our seat at the Human Rights Council,” he said.
“I thank Foreign Minister Kono for outmaneuvering the vote on the Iceland resolution. I thank Gustavo Gonzales and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra for signing a landmark joint program on human rights with the United Nations,” he added.
He also cited the Philippines’ fight for the Global Compact for Migration and the vote in UN General Assembly resolutions “condemning the invasion of Ukraine, the humanitarian crisis it created, and suspending Russia from the Human Rights Council.”
Locsin also led the awarding of plaques to outstanding DFA personnel and offices and recognized loyalty awardees.
Locsin, in turn, was given a video tribute and was applauded by the DFA personnel and diplomats present.