Erlinda Basilio expected to be named ambassador to China
President Benigno S. Aquino III is expected to name Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Policy Erlinda Basilio as ambassador to China, reliable sources at the Department of Foreign Affairs said.
Malacanang said last Friday the President would announce Monday the new ambassador to China who will replace Sonia Brady,71, who suffered a stroke in Beijing last August.
Malacanang, however, made no such announcement, preoccupied it was with monitoring typhoon “Pablo.”
DFA sources said Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario submitted to the President three names, all career officers, for the post that is considered the most challenging in Philippine foreign affairs today.
Basilio has always been in the list of candidates for ambassador to China after Aquino family friend Domingo Lee withdrew from the position he was nominated for (he was never confirmed by the Commission on Appointments) in the wake of the standoff at the Panatag shoal, also known as Scarborough shoal, 123 nautical miles off Zambales in Central Luzon. But she has made herself valuable as undersecretary for policy in the home office.
Although some are of the opinion that a younger ambassador is needed in Beijing because of the intense demands of the job, physically and mentally, sources said the President decided on the more senior Basilio, 68. Having retired from the foreign service, Basilio is a political appointee.
DFA insiders say the President has always been comfortable with the soft-spoken Basilio and believes her calm demeanor would be an asset in dealing with China, especially at this time when the conflicting claims over the West Philippine Sea and, more recently, Panatag shoal have strained relations between the two countries.
A competent ambassador in Beijing is important at this time when China is undergoing leadership changes. Last month, Xi Jinping took over the presidency from President Hu Jintao. He also took over from Hu the chairmanship of the Central Military Commission an influential post that oversees major national security and military affairs.
Premier Wen Jiabao is also expected to turn over the position to Li Keqiang in March.
In the past several days, China did two things that alarmed countries already wary of the rising superpower from Asia. First was the issuance of new Chinese passports bearing the universally rejected 9-dash-line map.
The nine-dash-line is a map showing a U-shaped line enclosing almost the whole of the South China Sea which China claims belongs to them. The map has been widely protested by several countries including the Philippines and criticized in the international community.
The DFA said the Philippines will not stamp its visas on the Chinese e-passport with the 9-dash line map. It will instead put its approval stamp in a separate visa application form.
Another alarming report from China was the announcement by the Hainan police that starting on Jan 1, 2013, they will board and search ships which enter into what China considers its territorial waters in the disputed South China Sea, the China Daily reported.
Hainan is in the South China Sea. Several islands in the area, referred by the Philippines as West Philippine Sea, are claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
Considered an Asia hand having been assigned in Japan and held various Asia-related post in the department including as Assistant Secretary for Asia and Pacific Affairs, Basilio would be a re-assuring presence in the Philippine embassy in Beijing.
A graduate of the University of the Philippines (Bachelor of Arts major in Political Science and Masters in Asian Studies), Basilio joined the foreign service in 1970. She served as ambassador to Sweden and permanent representative to the Philippine Mission to the United Nations in Geneva.
Basilio was married to the late Norberto Basilio, also a diplomat. They have a daughter, Amelia Clarissa, who lives in Sweden.
She was Undersecretary for Policy of former Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo during the Arroyo administration and continued in this position under the Aquino administration.
Basilio served as acting secretary of foreign affairs when Romulo went on an indefinite leave of absence in February 2011 before Del Rosario was appointed foreign secretary