Philippines-China relations

Marcos names Locsin, Duterte’s top diplomat, as special envoy to China

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Marcos names Locsin, Duterte’s top diplomat, as special envoy to China

MARCOS' AMBASSADOR. Former foreign secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. during the Commission on Appointments approval of his ad interim appointment as ambassador to United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, December 7, 2022.

Angie de Silva/Rappler

(3rd UPDATE) Teodoro Locsin Jr., son of a journalist detained during the Marcos dictatorship, will concurrently serve as ambassador to the UK under the second Marcos president

MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. named Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsin Jr., the Philippines’ foreign secretary under Rodrigo Duterte, as his special envoy to China for special concerns. 

Locsin, 74, will continue to hold his other role as Philippine ambassador to the United Kingdom, Malacañang said on Wednesday, August 16.

Locsin, who filed numerous diplomatic protests and sometimes tweeted expletives against China, led the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) at a time when the Philippine leader, Duterte, sought closer ties with Beijing. He was Duterte’s third and longest-serving foreign secretary, steering the DFA from October 17, 2018, until Duterte’s term ended on June 30, 2022.

“It’s to boost bilateral relations between the two countries,” said Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil when asked why Marcos named Locsin as special envoy.

The new appointment comes as the West Philippine Sea issue between the Philippines and China is heating up again. 

On August 5, Chinese Coast Guard ships fired water cannons at Philippine vessels on the way to Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea. This prompted a diplomatic protest from the Philippines and statements of concern from various countries, including the United States, Japan, and in a rare instance, even South Korea.

Marcos names Locsin, Duterte’s top diplomat, as special envoy to China
‘Champion’ of PH interest

In a statement on Thursday, August 17, House Deputy Speaker Batangas 6th District Representative Ralph Recto said Locsin “can effectively champion our interest” in his additional role. 

“He will not be there to rabble-rouse, but to press the reboot button, so that the PH-China relations will pivot toward a mutually respecting phase. While he has the command of language that makes him our best weapon in a shouting war, the situation calls for no bullhorn diplomacy, but quiet labor that brings results,” said Recto. 

 “But if need be, he can stare down China’s practitioners of wolf diplomacy,” he added. 

Opposition senator Risa Hontiveros also welcomed Locsin’s designation, citing his staunch position on China’s incursions in the West Philippine Sea even when he was top diplomat of the pro-China Duterte administration.

“Ambassador Locsin’s track record shows his strong and balanced position on China, even when he served under a former president who kowtowed to Beijing. In this new role, I expect Ambassador Locsin to maintain that position and indefatigably uphold our 2016 Arbitral Award in all his engagements with his Chinese counterparts,” she said in a statement.

“An experienced diplomat, he has a knack for words that I hope he uses boldly in defense of our national interest,” she added.

The new Marcos special envoy is the son and namesake of the late Teodoro Locsin Sr., a journalist who was detained in the 1970s for criticizing the President’s father, dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos. 

After Marcos was overthrown in 1986, the younger Locsin served as speechwriter and legal counsel to democracy icon Corazon Aquino. He later also wrote speeches for Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and was elected Makati 1st District representative from 2001 to 2010. 

Locsin, who holds a master of laws from Harvard University, is also a lawyer and former media personality who hosted the ABS-CBN show Assignment and the ANC newscast segment Teditorial. Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com