Locsin: PH can't relax anti-drug campaign due to proximity to China, the region's 'smuggling center'

Published May 18, 2021, 12:44 PM

by Roy Mabasa

For Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., the Philippines cannot afford to relax its campaign against illegal drugs like what Portugal did in 2001 due to the country’s proximity to China, the region’s “smuggling center of illegal drug exports.”

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. discusses the West Philippine Sea issue in a meeting with President Duterte and other Cabinet members in Davao City on May 10, 2021 (Malacañang)

Locsin remembered telling this to a Portuguese representative at the United Nations (UN) when the latter asked why the Philippines does not stop its harsh war on drugs and instead legalize the drug use.

“I answered, ‘Because Portugal is the size of a sardine can with a population to match, facing the anodyne Atlantic Ocean where nothing much happens while the Philippines lies in the South China Sea, within spitting distance of China- the smuggling center of illegal drug exports in the region- and the 13th largest nation in the world,” Locsin said in a tweet without mentioning when this actual exchanges with the Portuguese diplomat transpired.

Locsin served as head of the Philippine Mission at the UN headquarters in New York from 2016 to 2018 until he was appointed by President Duterte to replace Alan Peter Cayetano.

In 2001, Portugal made history by becoming the first country in the world to decriminalize the consumption and possession of illegal drugs.

Locsin’s tweet was actually in reaction to a news report that more people died of drug overdoses in San Francisco, California last year than of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

He raised the specter of the Philippines losing its main islands due to “an addicted population” and a “cash-rich elected cartel” who will “sell the islands”.

The Philippines is still locked in a dispute with China over some features in the West Philippine Sea despite the 2016 Arbitral Award that already nullified Beijing’s excessive nine-dash line claims.

During his time as the Philippines’ envoy to the UN and later as foreign affairs chief, Locsin staunchly defended Duterte’s war-on-drugs campaign that resulted in the killings of more than 6,000 suspected users and small-time drug peddlers.

In a speech before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 2019, Locsin said the UN was “not free to interfere” when a state chooses to take a hardline stance against crime.