The Philippines’ top diplomat has requested that Chinese vessels leave the country’s waters in an expletive-laden social media post, the latest salvo in a war of words between Manila and Beijing over the disputed South China Sea.
“China, my friend, how politely can I put it? Let me see… O… GET THE F*** OUT,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr wrote on Twitter on Monday.
After his remarks sparked outrage on social media, Locsin added on Tuesday, “If Wang Yi is following Twitter, then I’m sorry for hurting his feelings but his alone,” referring to his Chinese counterpart.
The most recent spat over the resource-rich waters – which China claims almost entirely – erupted in March, when hundreds of Chinese boats were spotted within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
China has repeatedly declined to remove the warships, and tensions have risen as Manila increases maritime patrols in the region. Beijing has declined to recognize the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea, as established by the International Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
Locsin is known for his use of strong language on social media, and he justified his latest outburst by saying, “Normal suave diplomatic-speak gets nothing done.”
He also likened China to “an ugly oaf forcing your attentions on a handsome guy who wants to be a friend”.
The order came as his Foreign Affairs Department accused China’s coastguard of “belligerent behavior” against Filipino ships participating in maritime exercises near the disputed Scarborough Shoal, which Beijing seized from the Philippines in 2012.
China is in control. Scarborough is one of the richest fishing grounds in the area and a flashpoint between the two nations, which have competing claims.
The department said it had lodged a diplomatic complaint over the Chinese vessels’ behavior last month against the Southeast Asian country’s coastguard during patrols and training exercises near the reef.
‘Blatant infringement of sovereignty’
The appearance of the Chinese warships, according to the department, was a “blatant violation of Philippine sovereignty.”
China’s foreign ministry warned that “megaphone diplomacy” would “undermine mutual confidence” and urged Locsin to follow diplomatic protocol.
I won’t plead the last provocation as an excuse for losing it; but if Wang Yi is following Twitter then I’m sorry for hurting his feelings but his alone. It’s been my elusive dream to copy until I attain in mind and manner the elegance of Wang Yi. His opinion alone matters. He… https://t.co/LgvHujxzYc— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) May 4, 2021
Scarborough Shoal is located 240 kilometers (150 miles) west of Luzon, the Philippines’ main island.
China seized it in 2012 and has since defied a 2016 international tribunal ruling that ruled China’s historical claim to much of the South China Sea to be invalid.
Once-frosty relations between the two countries warmed under Duterte, who set aside the ruling in return for assurances of trade and investment that critics argue have yet to materialize.
Faced with mounting domestic pressure to take a tougher stance, Duterte declared last week that Philippine maritime patrols would continue, maintaining that the country’s control over the seas was unassailable.
On Monday evening, Duterte reiterated that he never promised to be confrontational with China when he ran for office in 2016.
“China remains to be our benefactor. Just because we have a conflict with China, doesn’t have to mean that we have to be rude and disrespectful,” said Duterte, who frequently curses at individuals, organisations and world leaders and institutions that he dislikes.
In a statement that baffled maritime experts, Duterte also pleaded with Beijing to “kindly only allow our fishermen to fish in peace” in waters already declared to be within the Philippine EEZ.
According to foreign ministry data as of April 26, the Philippines had filed 78 diplomatic protests to China since Duterte took office in 2016.
“Our statements are stronger too because of the more brazen nature of the activities, the number, frequency and proximity of intrusions,” said Marie Yvette Banzon-Abalos, the executive director for strategic communications at the foreign ministry.