Ambassador Erlinda Basilio is a career Philippines diplomat. Her posts have included Switzerland, Cuba, and Japan, and she served as ambassador to Sweden from 1997 to 2003. She was permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva from 2007 to 2010.
In Manila, she served as the assistant secretary for Asia and the Pacific Affairs from 1995 to 1997, undersecretary for Policy from 2006 to 2007, and most recently as undersecretary of Foreign Affairs.
Basilio has been closely involved in Manila’s attempts to resolve disputes with Beijing over competing claims in the South China Sea, and participated in the July 2012 ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, which ended in disunity as the 10 member states failed to reach consensus on a concluding statement. She traveled to China in late September for talks with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, and led a caucus that hosted Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying in Manila during October as part of the 18th round of the Foreign Ministry Consultations.
Why is she in the news?
President Benigno Aquino December 5 named Basilio the new Philippine ambassador to China. The Commission on Appointments is expected to confirm the selection shortly, filling the post after four months of vacancy following the former ambassador’s stroke.
Ties with China have worsened since the April 2012 standoff over the contested Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea. Aquino said Basilio’s appointment aims to reverse the negative environment surrounding bilateral relations, and signals Beijing’s importance to Manila. Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario praised Basilio’s “wealth of experience,” and lauded her “skills to build bridges to China.”
China praised Basilio’s appointment. Chinese Ambassador to Manila Ma Keqing extolled Basilio as “very experienced” and someone who “gets the bigger picture”.
What can we expect?
Basilio’s appointment comes at a critical juncture in Manila’s tussle with Beijing to settle maritime disputes. The ASEAN Leaders’ Summit in Phnom Penh in November ended in another standoff between ASEAN countries over the South China Sea, and China’s controversial new passports’ map and vague orders for its border police have sparked a diplomatic row with the Philippines.
Basilio will play a pivotal role as interlocutor between both sides. Mistrust is prevalent, which she will be tasked with mitigating. Basilio will work to prevent potential disputes from erupting into violent conflict, and seek to mediate concerns from both Manila and Beijing.