MANILA — Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr denied Wednesday that the Philippines was “kowtowing” to Chinese aggression in contested waters, saying this was a “narrative of the opposition.”
President Rodrigo Duterte, in an earlier bilateral meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping brought up a United Nation-backed court’s 2016 ruling that junked Beijing’s claims to the South China Sea, said Locsin.
“There is no kowtowing. The President himself confronted Xi Jinping,” he told ANC. “To say kowtowing is to subscribe to the narrative of the opposition, which is just so desperate to take over. Well, they just have to win an election in 2022.”
Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday urged Duterte to “speak out” and come up with a plan after Locsin’s agency lodged a diplomatic protest over the Chinese coast guard’s confiscation of Filipino fishermen’s devices in May.
“The first thing about this plan is you’re looking at it. He (Duterte) appointed me, knowing where I was coming from. I was in the UN, I was very firm about protecting what is ours, I was very firm about never bending a knee to China. And that’s why he took me,” Locsin said.
“If Risa Hontiveros would only stop listening to her own voice and trying to listen to others,” he added.
Locsin was Manila’s permanent representative to the UN before his stint in Duterte’s Cabinet.
But since Duterte assumed office in 2016, he has adopted a friendlier stance towards China despite unresolved disputes over the South China Sea, which Beijing claims in near entirety.
His term has seen an increase in Chinese investments to the Philippines, including the rise of Philippine offshore gaming operators, which has driven arrivals of Chinese nationals here.
During his 5th State of the Nation Address, Duterte said he was "inutile" and "cannot do anything" against Beijing's pursuit of territory and resources in the South China Sea.
The Philippines should "just cool off" and pursue "diplomatic endeavors" to counter China's sweeping claims to the area "unless we are prepared to go to war," Duterte had said.