In an expletive-strewn Twitter rant, the Philippine foreign secretary told China to “get the fuck out” of the country’s territorial waters on Monday, as tensions flare over the disputed South China Sea.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., who is known for angry outbursts on his personal Twitter account, was condemning Beijing over Chinese ships that harassed Filipino vessels in the waterway, known domestically as the West Philippines Sea.
The verbal barrage came after the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said it filed two diplomatic protests over the encroachment, which saw the deployment of hundreds of Chinese militia and fishing vessels.
“China, my friend, how politely can I put it? Let me see…,” the foreign secretary said in one tweet. “GET THE FUCK OUT. What are you doing to our friendship?”
“You’re like an ugly oaf forcing your attentions on a handsome guy who wants to be a friend,” he added.
This handout photo taken April 14, 2021, and received from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) April 15, Philippine coast guard personnel aboard rubber boats and displaying a Philippine flag, patrol past Chinese vessels at Whitsun Reef, in the Spratly Islands. PHOTO: Philippine coast Guard / AFP
The Chinese embassy in Manila had no immediate response to the comments, which made international headlines and prompted stunned questions over the abandonment of diplomatic tact. One person said the tweets were “embarrassing for you and your country.”
China claims almost all of the resource-rich sea, a key shipping route and frequent staging ground for saber-rattling between the Asian superpower and the United States, which has staged drills in the area.
Over the years, Beijing has built artificial islands and installations despite objections from several Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei, among others.
Earlier this year a brewery in Vietnam, which also contests territory in the sea, waded into the contentious maritime feud by naming craft beers after islands claimed by Hanoi. They sold well.
An aerial shot of Chinese-claimed reef Subi reef, from a Philippine airforce plane, as Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana along with some journalists visit the Philippine-claimed Thitu island just opposite Subi reef in Spratlys on April 21, 2017. A group of Filipino fishermen have accused China's coast guard of shooting at their vessel in disputed South China waters, Philippine authorities said April 21. Photo: TED ALJIBE / AFP
In 2016, Southeast Asian countries cheered when a United Nations-backed tribunal invalidated China’s sweeping claims in favor of the Philippines, which filed the landmark case.
But the issue has been a persistent flashpoint for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has pivoted away from the U.S. towards China despite domestic anger over Beijing’s actions in the sea.
Some observers say diplomatic and verbal protests from Duterte’s subordinates won’t matter if he doesn’t personally confront China, which he recently called a “good friend.”
“That (silence) is very disturbing, because he has to lead in this battle, in this fight to preserve, to defend our island territories in the West Philippine Sea and our exclusive economic zone,” retired Supreme Court Senior Justice Antonio Carpio said in a TV interview.