NEW YORK CITY – Many of the commitments made by the Chinese government to the Philippines have yet to materialize, according to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.
Speaking at an event organized by the Asia Society here on Tuesday (early Wednesday in Manila), Locsin said the perception that China has been pouring support to Philippine economic and infrastructure development is mainly just on paper.
“We signed up this and that agreement, but they hardly materialized,” he told former Australian prime minister and Asia Society Policy Institute president Kevin Rudd.
“They hardly materialized, and if you were to compare it with Japanese investments and official assistance, nothing. It seems as if Japan, if there is a thing as a rising China, apparently there’s a phenomenon – there’s a book on it – on a rising Japan. And we’re feeling that,” he added.
In his remarks, the secretary also reiterated his position regarding the futility of raising the arbitral ruling favoring the Philippine position on the South China Sea dispute before the United Nations.
“I tried that. I failed in the UN regional forums, where China has a lot of the African and South Asian votes,” he said. “(But) the arbitral award – for all its seeming vacuity – is nonetheless now part of international law and beyond the reach of passing governments to dilute, diminish or abandon.”
Locsin also described Chinese reclamation in the South China Sea the “most useless thing” that China ever did, noting observations that a missile could turn them into glass bottles in the first three minutes of a conflict.
“The taking and reclamation of those reefs was the most useless thing China ever did, rousing the hostility of its neighbors without getting, gaining the smallest tactical advantage against its prime adversary,” he said, repeating his previous response to a question from a Chinese newspaper.
The secretary also underscored the relationship of the Philippines and United States, noting the trust and affection of Filipinos for America remain throughout the years.
“Rock solid,” he said when asked about the US and Philippine relations. “We hope not just in words, but in material commitments and American presence. We cannot see any way forward in Asia, with any promise of freedom, without the American military presence.”
Asked who he wants to win in next year’s presidential election in the US, Locsin heaped praises on President Donald Trump, who is running for a second term. “I think he’ll surprise us,” he said.
The foreign secretary is in New York to attend the 74th UN General Assembly this week. He is expected to address the assembly of heads of state and other government leaders on Saturday (early Sunday in Manila).
In a GMA News report, meanwhile, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio warned that before the end of President Duterte’s term in 2022, China might attempt to reclaim Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal and agree to sign a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea to legitimize its claim, including possibly its building of structures over the shoal.
“We all know they have a plan and they will do that before the end of the term of President Duterte, and because that is the time they will also sign the Code of Conduct,” Carpio said.
The Code of Conduct refers to an agreement between China and Southeast Asian nations on ways of dealing with issues in disputed waters.
“After they finish the reclamation, their island-building in the Scarborough Shoal, they will say, ‘let’s sign the Code of Conduct, nobody builds anything anymore,’ and that will legitimize what they have created, their artificial islands,” he added.
Lighthouses on Fuga
In Manila, National Security Adviser Secretary Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said the government is putting up lighthouses on Fuga Island and nearby islets in Northern Luzon.
He said at least 13 lighthouses would be constructed within the Calayan island group. Fuga, along with Dalupiri and Camiguin Islands in Cagayan province, is under the administrative jurisdiction of Calayan island town in Cagayan.
“We are putting up 13 lighthouses somewhere there in Batanes and Calayan,” Esperon said on the sidelines of the change of command ceremony for outgoing Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Benjamin Madrigal Jr. and next AFP chief Lt. Gen. Noel Clement late Tuesday afternoon at Camp Aguinaldo. – With Jaime Laude, Evelyn Macairan