(4th UPDATE) MANILA, Philippines – Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Policy Erlinda Basilio will be the new Philippine Ambassador to China replacing Sonia Brady, President Benigno Aquino III announced on Wednesday, December 5.
Basilio’s name was recommended by DFA chief Albert del Rosario, Aquino told reporters during an ambush interview.
Asked about her credentials, the President said that she has “wealth of experience” and her appointment “sends a signal of how important our relations are with China and how serious we are of trying to achieve an understanding with them.”
The designation will be made official once the documents arrive from the Executive Secretary’s office, and the government will then submit her name to the Commission on Appointments, Aquino added.
Del Rosario noted in a statement that he is counting on Basilio to “play a major role in achieving our defined objective” of a significant enhancement of relations with China.
“Our nominee is a seasoned senior diplomat who brings with her experience and expertise in dealing with all current matters pertaining to our relations with China. She moreover enjoys the confidence of the President,” he said.
A career diplomat like Brady, 68-year-old Basilio is however now considered a political appointee. She retired from the DFA 3 years ago but was asked to return in 2010.
Presidential Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said has the “necessary skills to build bridges to China and articulate the policies and positions of our country on important issues.”
“She will play a crucial role in shaping our evolving and increasingly complex relationship with China,” Carandang added.
Just after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers’ meeting held in July in Cambodia, Basilio wrote a position paper about the absence of a joint communique and defending the Philippines for pushing for a statement despite the chair’s objections.
After graduating from the University of the Philippines with a Bachelor of Arts and Masters in Political Science, she joined the foreign service in 1970 and served as ambassador to Sweden (1997-2003) and permanent representative to the Philippine Mission to the United Nations in Geneva (2007-2010).
Basilio was also assistant secretary for Asia and Pacific Affairs (1995-1997) and undersecretary for policy (2006-2007) under then Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo.
When President Aquino was elected in 2010, she was briefly acting DFA Secretary while Romulo was on leave pending the appointment of Del Rosario as new foreign secretary.
DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez called Basilio “a seasoned professional in diplomacy” who is “up to date and fully informed in the issues of foreign policy.”
“We are relying on her to enhance the bilateral relations between the Philippines and our very important neighbor and friend, China, he added during a regular press briefing on Wednesday.
Basilio had been in charge of negotiations with China over the territorial dispute in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) and will represent the Philippines in next week’s four-way meeting over the issue with Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam.
She met Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying in the last high-level talks between both countries held in October in Manila.
The President had been looking for a replacement for Brady since the current Philippine ambassador had to leave her post and return to Manila after suffering a stroke in August.
Philippine charge d’affaires to China Alex Chua has been handling the embassy’s day-to-day operations since then.
Brady was involved in a controversy after the notes she took during a meeting with backchannel negotiator Sen Antonio Trillanes IV in Beijing were published by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
The new Philippine ambassador also has a personal motive for resolving the row with China over Scarborough Shoal.
Her family hails from Masinloc, Zambales, the closest town to the outcrop in the West Philippine Sea, also known as Bajo de Masinloc.
Basilio claims that her forefathers, though originally from Ilocos, founded the town which gave name to the shoal during Spanish colonial times. – Rappler.com