Manila's new ambassador to China is career diplomat Erlinda Basilio, 68

Veteran career diplomat is looking to improve bilateral ties after a successful meeting with deputy foreign minister Fu Ying in October

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 December, 2012, 4:04am

The Philippines' new ambassador to China will be Foreign Undersecretary Erlinda Basilio, who has been instrumental in pushing for a multilateral approach to resolving territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino announced his choice yesterday, saying her "wealth of experience, and given that she's already an undersecretary … sends a signal how important our relations are with China".

Basilio, 68, is the foreign undersecretary for policy who met Deputy Foreign Minister Fu Ying in Manila two months ago, signalling a slight thawing of relations between the two countries.

Three months before that, however, the presidential palace in Manila used Basilio to launch a media blitz telling the public why Cambodia had scuttled the drafting of a joint communiqué to close the 45th Asean Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh. The Philippines had wanted the communiqué to mention a proposed code of conduct on the South China Sea to be signed with China.

Basilio, who was present at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting, told one Philippine television station that Cambodia acted the way it did because "much money was poured and promised" by China to the host. "They [China] provided a maritime co-operation fund, construction fund, a connectivity fund and various other things."

The palace also released an article bearing Basilio's byline which she said was intended "to correct the grave misimpressions" being spread about the Philippines. In it, she denied that Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario had denounced China's "duplicity and intimidation" during the Asean meeting.

She also stressed that the Philippines had a "three-track approach to advance its interests in the West Philippine Sea [as Manila calls the South China Sea]" - political, diplomatic and legal. "Asean is part of the political track," she wrote.

During the tense stand-off in April between Chinese and Philippine ships at Scarborough Shoal, which China calls Huangyan Island, Basilio handed a diplomatic note to Chinese ambassador Ma Keqing, to protest at the "harassment" by Chinese vessels and aircraft of a Philippine-registered ship conducting archaeological research.

The Aquino government also sent Basilio to negotiate a resolution to the stand-off but "discussions still ended in a stalemate", foreign affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said at the time.

Hernandez said yesterday the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs was fully behind Basilio's appointment to replace Sonia Brady.

"She is a seasoned professional in diplomacy and she is up to date and fully informed of various issues in foreign policy," he said.

"We are relying on her to enhance the bilateral relations between the Philippines and our very important neighbour and friend, China."

In her 42 years as a career diplomat, Basilio served for eight years in Tokyo (initially as vice-consul, then consul and consul general) and eight years in Cuba. She was last posted overseas, for three years until January 2010, as permanent representative to the Philippine mission at the United Nations in Geneva.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a Master of Arts in Asian studies from the University of the Philippines.