Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin is hoping that the controversy created by his recent expletive-laced tweet against China will not impact the bilateral relations between the two neighboring countries.
Locsin made this comment on Thursday in reaction to an opinion piece published by the Global Times, a daily publication affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party, which stated that Manila’s hyping of the South China Sea disputes “may further affect bilateral relations” and “could harm cooperation to fight against the pandemic.”
China is the Philippines’ biggest source of COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) vaccines with more than three million doses of Sinovac CoronaVac jabs delivered so far since the country started the rollout in early March 2021.
“Let’s hope not for both our sakes because believe me we have nothing to fear. I have expressed my sincere regret to Chinese state counselor FM Wang Yi and he alone,” Locsin said in a tweet, adding that the sea dispute is “a pebble on a broad avenue but we can stumble over it and that will be it.”
The Chinese newspaper believes that Locsin’s use of “F” word and ranting on Twitter may have something to do with the next year’s presidential race where the South China Sea issue is expected to become one of the “gimmicks” of candidates to “gain momentum”.
“Different political forces in the country will regard the South China Sea as an important topic to hype up. And now, such a trend has begun. Although it is still unclear whether Locsin will participate in the presidential election, he will inevitably hype and instigate the South China Sea issue,” the Global Times said.
Although being rumored as among the several cabinet members who are eyeing a Senate seat in 2022, Locsin has already denied interest in participating in the upcoming political exercise.
The Chinese government mouthpiece is also confused with what it described as “contradictions” in the Philippine government’s attitude towards China.
“In terms of security, the Philippines is an ally of the US. Economically, it is becoming increasingly dependent on China. On the one hand, the Philippines is still hyping the South China Sea issue during the pandemic; on the other hand, it needs China’s aid for its COVID-19 fight, especially vaccines,” it pointed out.
On the part of President Duterte, the Chinese influential newspaper said the Philippine president has taken a “generally friendly” approach toward China, citing specifically his most recent statement describing China as “our benefactor”. The following day after the President made this statement, he got his first dose of the Chinese-made Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine.
“This shows that there are conflicting views toward China within the Philippines, and the president can hardly control different voices in his government,” the Global Times said.