Former Philippine foreign minister Teodoro Locsin has been appointed special presidential envoy for Beijing, the Philippine government said Wednesday (16/8), despite the outspoken diplomat’s obscene criticism of China.
Locsin, who is currently ambassador to the UK and Ireland, frequently used offensive language while serving as foreign minister under former president Rodrigo Duterte and once berated China online over the presence of Chinese ships in the disputed South China Sea.
His expletive-laden remarks prompted a rebuke from Beijing and Locsin later apologized to his Chinese counterpart.
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs declined to comment on Locsin’s sudden appointment, which was announced by the Office of Presidential Communications on its official Facebook page.
It said in a brief statement that Locsin had been appointed “Special Presidential Envoy for the People’s Republic of China on Special Issues”.
No other details were provided.
Presidential communications chief Cheloy Garafil told reporters Locsin would be on dual duty, meaning he would also be serving as ambassador.
Locsin is a prolific user of platform X, formerly known as Twitter, with topics ranging from Holocaust victims to his deceased pet cat, but has not commented publicly on his appointment.
Philippine Secretary of State Teodoro Locsin meets US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the US Department of State in Washington DC, September 9, 2021. (Photo: Jacquelyn Martin / POOL / AFP)
The decision comes at a time when relations between the Philippines and China are strained, particularly over their diplomatic spat in the South China Sea.
Beijing claims almost all of the waterway through which trillions of dollars worth of trade passes annually, and has ignored a 2016 international court ruling that its claims have no legal basis.
Tensions flared this month when the Philippines accused Chinese Coast Guard ships of blocking and firing water cannons at Filipino ships on a supply mission.
Manila summoned Beijing’s envoy over the incident, which resulted in one of the ships carrying supplies failing to reach a Philippine Navy ship anchored at Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly Islands.
Several members of the Philippine marines — who were stationed on the wrecked ship to assert the Philippines’ territorial claims — were relying on the resupply mission to survive their remote deployment.
Beijing has defended its actions as “professional”, and accused Manila of “illegally transferring construction materials” to a Philippine ship deliberately anchored there.
The Philippines insists that the Second Thomas Shoal is within its exclusive economic zone and that its attempts to supply troops and repair the BRP Sierra Madre are legitimate. (ab/uh)