C’est la vie

There were other influences in China that said we have to go this far. And then they said, ‘Oh, no, you have to go back’

The current situation in the West Philippine Sea where China imposes its historic claim over other claimants including the Philippines, which can do nothing but wait for what the Asian powerhouse dishes out, was a political blunder two administrations past.

Former foreign affairs secretary Teddy Boy Locsin, who was a guest on Daily Tribune’s Straight Talk program, said it was, to be exact, the government under President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III who followed the American playbook to the letter which led to allowing China to dominate the maritime area it has been claiming.

This was before the golden age of Philippine-China relations during the term of President Rodrigo Duterte, who made diplomatic inroads through engagement.

A point came during the previous administration when trust had been well established between both nations that signing agreements became common practice.

Locsin related the brotherly relationship he had with China’s foreign minister Wang Yi.

“And I asked the foreign minister, would you consider signing a memorandum on the joint development of oil and gas? And he just signed it.”

It was then Wang’s turn to ask: “Okay, there’s another memorandum on Belt and Road. Would you consider signing that?”

“And I said, no, I will not consider that at all. I’ll sign it right here and now,” according to Locsin.

“We went as far as we could,” Locsin said on how he and Wang tried to navigate the maritime friction while keeping warm the unprecedented friendly relations between both countries.

There were times both officials were warned that they had taken steps too far from what their political parameters allowed.

“There were other influences in China that said we have to go this far. And then they say, ‘Oh, no. You have to go back,’” Locsin explained.

The Americans were always looking over the shoulders of officials of President Duterte in everything in which China was involved.

After the signing of the memorandum of understanding on joint exploration, Locsin said an undersecretary of the US Department of Energy came to the Philippines and asked if she could look it over.

“So she was in my room, so I gave it to her. She passed it around and said, “Hey, this is really good.”

Locsin replied “God, really? Do you like it? Then I’ll make one for you right now.”

To that, the official said, “No, don’t bother, you’re too small. Too small for American oil and gas. That’s the truth.”

Regarding the 2012 Scarborough Shoal standoff, Locsin said the Aquino administration blinked and withdrew the naval contingent from the area of friction.

While the Philippine Navy will never back off from any confrontation, it was in the end a political decision.

“So in that reef, they faced off with a Chinese warship and both groups of vessels wouldn’t move. So then the Americans said, Stand down, both of you stand down. Then it said, Okay, now withdraw, both of you,” he said.

“We withdrew but China didn’t. And the guy in Washington said, ‘Oh, well, such is life.’”

Locsin’s retelling indicated that when it comes to protecting the Philippine interest, the Americans would be hard to rely on even if the country’s actions are aligned towards protecting its interest.

Had the Aquino administration been firmer in charting its course in the sea dispute and refused to be swayed by the Americans, it would have won global respect even from China, which was then denied the chance to even have a dialogue with the Philippine leader.

“So that’s where the tension is now. But really, we lost that reef because they told us to back off. And that’s what really happened,”
Now the Philippines speaks with China on an even platform. Respect has been restored between both nations.

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