FOREIGN Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. bid goodbye to the department which he proudly claims as the “most respected institution of the Republic,” broadly hinting his term will not be extended as chief diplomat under the incoming President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
Six days before President Duterte and Locsin bow out of office, no DFA secretary-designate has been named by President-elect Marcos, leaving the Philippine foreign service and diplomatic corps hanging in suspense.
In a speech during the 124th Founding Anniversary of the DFA Thursday, Locsin said his four-year term as foreign affairs secretary was marred with challenges from the pandemic and the “new Cold War starting from our neck of the woods.”
He lamented that despite “sincere efforts” between him and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, they could not hammer out an oil and gas agreement in the South China Sea that will not violate the Philippine Constitution and China “denouncing its aspiration.”
In this October 29, 2018, file photo, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. and visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi are engaged in a light moment during the latter’s courtesy call in Davao City, hometown of President Duterte. AP/Manman Dejeto
President Duterte, however, did not approve the Philippine-China draft agreement that would have allowed both Beijing and Manila to conduct oil and gas exploration and exploitation in the West Philippine Sea.
“I carried out his instructions to the letter: oil and gas discussions are terminated completely. Nothing is pending; everything is over. Three years on and we had not achieved our objective of developing oil and gas resources so critical for the Philippines — but not at the price of sovereignty; not even a particle of it,” Locsin said.
He said he will leave it up to his successor to to protect our sovereignty all the way to the wire.
“And now I can rest. The irreducible template of what is constitutionally possible is there in black and white. Surrender of any portion of Philippine sovereignty is not an option. Not for love; not for money,” he insisted.
Locsin said he will leave the department proud of its accomplishments in the field of diplomacy.
However, much work still needs to be done on administration matters.
He said he had turned down the earlier approved budget to construct a new building for the department, which was a hand-me-down from the old Asian Development Bank along Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City.
“We’re not throwing money at a new building when this one can withstand another half century of use. Sure, it looks shopworn; so are all of you inside — all our dedicated DFA personnel. This building fits us to DFA in the service of the Filipino — in the worst of times which is to say in the best of times to show our quality,” he explained.
He will also ask his successor to work on the law increasing the retirement benefits of foreign service employees. “Retirement pay was recently raised; but what about those who retired on poor pensions before the increase? My successor will accomplish what I have not,” he added.
Image credits: AP/Olivier Matthys, AP/Manman Dejeto