a man sitting at a table: Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. attends the ASEAN-UK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on COVID-19 held on Sept. 30, 2020 via video conference. Photo from DFA © DFA Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. attends the ASEAN-UK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on COVID-19 held on Sept. 30, 2020 via video conference. Photo from DFA

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Monday took exception to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque’s statement that the Philippines could challenge the legality of China’s new coast guard law before a United Nations (UN) tribunal.

Locsin tweeted that Roque, a former professor of international law, did not have the competence on matters involving foreign relations.

“Harry, just lay off foreign affairs,” Locsin said. "I am not listening to Harry Roque. Love the guy but he’s not competent in this field. We do not go back to The Hague. We might lose what we won. Harry, lay off.”

Responding to Locsin’s call, Roque said, “I love him back even more so.”

“Tisoy kasi,” Roque said at a press briefing on Tuesday.

Roque then defended his statement, saying it was not an intrusion into the affairs of other government departments.

“Ang sa akin kasi ay the President is the chief architect of foreign policy pero hindi tayo nanghihimasok,” he said.

“Pasensya na po, as chief architect of foreign policy, napakahirap naman po kung tayo’y tikom sa mga bagay-bagay na ito. But of course, we always defer to the line agency as far as actual policies to be implemented are concerned.”

Roque’s comments stemmed from the suggestion of retired Supreme Court justice Antonio Carpio last week that Beijing’s rival claimants in the South China Sea could ask a UN tribunal to nullify the law, which allows China’s coast guard to shoot foreign vessels that violate Chinese sovereignty.

Roque told a news conference on Monday that a legal challenge may be filed before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, a judicial body established by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

“By being a party to UNCLOS, she [China] also become a party to the compulsory dispute settlement mechanism,” Roque said.

However, Roque said the decision whether to sue China would be “dictated by national interest, not only of the Philippines, but also of the different ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations member) countries.”

Aside from the Philippines and China, the other claimants include Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia. Taiwan and China are not ASEAN members.

China's claim to nearly the entire South China Sea, including areas under the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, was declared illegal in July 2016 by the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration following a lawsuit filed by Manila in 2013.?

The Philippines had already filed a diplomatic protest over China’s new coast guard law. —KBK, GMA News

This article Locsin tells Roque to 'lay off foreign affairs' after comments on China coast guard law was originally published in GMA News Online.

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