Quick approval for new Beijing envoy

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 June, 2012, 12:00am


In a major step towards defusing the tensions in the South China Sea, the Philippines has rushed the confirmation of its ambassador to China.

The powerful bicameral congressional Commission on Appointments (CA) took all of one day, May 30, to approve Sonia Brady's (pictured) appointment, made by the president's office last week.

By contrast the commission dithered more than a year over the initial choice of President Benigno Aquino's administration.

Businessman Domingo Lee's confirmation was repeatedly deferred, and the CA cited, among other reasons, his inability to express himself well in English and the fact he could not answer specific questions about the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. In the end, Aquino last month appointed Lee as one of his special envoys to China.

Brady, a retired career diplomat, now only needs to be accepted by the Chinese government before she leaves for Beijing, a wait that could take up to two months. Brady was second secretary and consul in Beijing from 1976 to 1978 after the Philippines resumed diplomatic relations with China.

Her confirmation was one of the fastest in a country where appointments often become dragged-out political fights.

In an interview with South China Morning Post, Congressman Roilo Golez, the CA's vice-chairman, said that Brady's appointment was carried out hastily on the committee's last day of work because of 'national interest'.

'We have not had an ambassador to China for more than a year,' he said, adding he was 'impressed' by Brady's track record.

Relations between the two countries have been tense after Chinese ships stopped Philippine vessels from arresting Chinese fishermen in the South China Sea in April.

Both countries have since deployed vessels near the disputed Scarborough Shoal, known in China as Huangyan Island, to press their claims to the area.