MANILA - The Commission on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday approved the appointment of Teodoro Locsin Jr. as Foreign Affairs Secretary.
The 70-year-old former Ambassador to the United Nations told the bicameral CA that under his watch, the country would "not waive a single inch" in the South China Sea, resource-rich waters being claimed by China.
Recalling his conversation with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, Locsin said: "It is not true that we would waive our rights."
"We do not waive a single inch of what was given to us by the arbitral award in the international law," Locsin said, referring to Manila's victory over Beijing in a UN-backed arbitration court in July 2016.
"The differences will be there but nothing stops us from going around those differences, over those differences to cooperate in areas of our mutual advantage," he said.
Locsin likened the dispute with China to the Philippines' and Malaysia's overlapping claims in Sabah.
"Sabah is a far richer resource than the South China Sea. It has oil, it has gas, it has timber, but we live with it," Locsin said.
"Some of the actions taken by the Malaysian authorities on our people in Sabah have been rather harsh, but we continue to live in peace as partners," he said.
The DFA, however, will not hesitate to bring up the Permanent Court of Arbitration's decision should China insist on its claims in diplomatic meetings, he said.
During his tenure at the UN, Locsin said he replied to China's statement on the arbitral ruling.
"I would like to thank China for this opportunity to again clarify that the arbitral ruling is a victory of international law and what it does is clarify legal confusion concerning permanent features in the South China Sea, and again for the opportunity to then assert how useful that ruling would be to everyone, China included," he said.
Locsin also defended President Rodrigo Duterte's pronouncement that he would withdraw the Philippines from the International Criminal Court (ICC), which sought to probe the government's war on drugs.
"It was far from a knee-jerk reaction. The provocations coming from the ICC started from the very moment he was elected president and from the time he launched his drug war," he said.
Duterte appointed Locsin as the country's top diplomat in October, after former Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano resigned to run for Taguig representative.
Senators had lauded Locsin's appointment, with Senate President Vicente Sotto III calling it as "one of the best appointments ever."
Locsin served as speechwriter and press secretary during the presidency of the late Corazon Aquino. He later on worked as an ABS-CBN journalist, before being elected as Makati representative from 2001 to 2010.