Wang Yi trip is Locsin's debut in Philippines as DFA chief

MANILA, Philippines – Without much warm-up, the country's newly appointed foreign secretary, Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin Jr, gets down to business in his native Philippines by welcoming the most important of guests: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

Wang's visit from Sunday to Monday, October 28 to 29, is Locsin's debut in the Philippines as foreign secretary. 

To be sure, Locsin already got his feet wet at the recent Asia-Europe Meeting in Brussels, where he delivered a speech and, on the sidelines, held bilateral meetings with Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

But his meeting with Wang will be his first major public engagement in the Philippines. 

On Monday, Locsin and Wang will hold a bilateral meeting at Marco Polo Hotel in President Rodrigo Duterte's hometown of Davao City. 

They "will also witness the signing of bilateral agreements covering infrastructure, law enforcement and humanitarian assistance," said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in a statement Saturday, October 27.

What will Locsin say? How will he conduct himself? How will he, a former media personality, answer questions from Philippine media? 

Aside from Wang's words and actions, these will be among the highlights of the Chinese foreign minister's second official trip to the Philippines from Sunday to Monday.

Not first meeting with Wang

In the DFA statement on Saturday, Locsin said he is looking forward to welcoming Wang. (READ: Wang Yi: China's foreign minister who once snubbed PH trips

The DFA said this would be the second time Locsin will meet Wang since he became DFA chief two weeks ago. Locsin and Wang "met on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Brussels last week." 

Locsin "also recalled the graciousness of Foreign Minister Wang when he received him and then foreign affairs secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano at the United Nations Security Council Room during the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly in New York last year." 

After Locsin took his oath as DFA chief on October 17, Wang outdid his American counterpart, Michael Pompeo, in first congratulating Locsin. Wang congratulated Locsin in a statement on October 18, while Pompeo called to congratulate him on October 25.

Locsin "thanked Foreign Minister Wang for congratulating him" after Duterte made him Manila's top diplomat, the DFA said on Saturday.

Surprise

Before becoming DFA chief, Locsin served as the Philippines' permanent representative to the United Nations.

Locsin's appointment caught the nation by surprise after the similarly unexpected resignation of Cayetano as foreign secretary. A politician-turned-diplomat, Cayetano resigned to run as Taguig-Pateros 1st District representative.

Duterte first announced in a press briefing on October 12 that he had offered the position of DFA chief to Locsin. Five days later, on October 17, Locsin found himself in Malacañang taking his oath before Duterte. 

Locsin then went straight to Brussels to attend the 12th Asia-Europe Meeting Summit, which was held from October 18 to 19.

There, Locsin delivered a speech on "inclusive and sustainable economic growth." 

The former speechwriter of the late president Corazon Aquino, former newspaper publisher and columnist, and former TV host most recently remembered for his ANC segment "Teditorial," was in his element in Brussels.

"The defense of law-abiding citizens against the violence of lawless elements – especially organized crime and terrorism, is the defining role of a state," Locsin said in his speech.

"Failure of the state's responsibility to protect the law-abiding against the lawless is at the root of the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean. But to avoid the opprobrium of severity, states fall back on passivity or go forward with complicity by treating lawlessness with kid gloves; such as in fighting drug and human trafficking cartels. We do not subscribe to that approach," he added.

On migration, Locsin said that in December, "we take the road to Marrakech for the formal adoption of the Global Compact on Migration."

"Not a charter of rights nor a scale of imposed obligations, it is a universal commitment to decency toward the stranger at the gates and the foreigner come to settle in our midst – for the safety some of us can offer, and always for the love and understanding that Christ enjoins when time enough has passed to call that stranger our neighbor." – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of 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 him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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