Basilio new envoy to China

Posted on December 06, 2012

A NEW ambassador to China has been named in a bid to improve relations strained by conflicting claims in the South China Sea.

President Benigno S. C. Aquino III yesterday said he has appointed Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for policy Erlinda F. Basilio as the new envoy to Beijing.

"Given that she’s already the senior undersecretary that sends a signal of how important our relations are with China and how serious we are of trying to achieve an understanding with them," Mr. Aquino told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines in Manila.

Ms. Basilio, 68, will replace Sonia C. Brady who suffered a stroke while on duty in China in August.

Ms. Basilio’s appointment needs to be confirmed by the Commission on Appointments.

The President had earlier said he wants an envoy to be posted in China by February.

A career diplomat, Ms. Basilio joined the foreign service in 1970. She was former assistant secretary for Asia and the Pacific Affairs and undersecretary for policy before her appointment to Beijing.

Manila and Beijing have been at odds following a standoff over overlapping claims in a shoal west of the Philippines last April.

The Chinese government claims ownership of the Panatag (or Huangyan island in Chinese) although it is just off the coast of Zambales.

It is situated within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines and is about 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) from China’s nearest point in Hainan.

The area is part of what is being claimed by China to include the Spratly Islands, an area said to be rich in oil and gas deposits. Other claimants are Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia.

Ms. Basilio had issued a clarificatory statement in July after the unprecedented non-issuance of a joint communique during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations foreign ministers meet in Cambodia over disagreements on the South China Sea.

Cambodia, a known China ally, insisted that maritime disputes be resolved bilaterally, contrary to the Philippine position that it be tackled at the international level in line with the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in South China Sea signed in 2002 and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. -- N. M. Gonzales