PHL envoy to China ill, is hospitalized in Beijing
The Philippines' envoy to China is afflicted with a serious ailment that led to her hospitalization at a crucial time when relations between Manila and Beijing may be further strained by an upcoming decision by an international tribunal in The Hague on the South China Sea disputes.
According to Department of Foreign Affairs sources, Ambassador Erlinda Basilio, 71, has undergone tracheostomy - a surgical procedure where a pipe is inserted into the trachea to provide an airway and to remove secretions from the lungs.
“She is currently in a hospital in Beijing. She can not travel. She will be out of circulation for a month or more,” a Filipino diplomat told GMA News Online.
Sources separately interviewed by GMA News Online said Basilio was in Manila this month and complained of a sore throat.
“She had a growth in her throat, but it was benign. But she underwent tracheostomy,” another source said.
Currently, Basilio’s deputy, Minister Counsellor Elizabeth Te, is the Charge d’Affaires of the embassy.
Te is no stranger to China since she was first assigned there as a junior officer, the source said.
“The personnel at the embassy are competent to temporarily handle the affairs until a new ambassador is appointed,” the source said.
“Alternately, the DFA can send a senior chief of mission as Charge d’Affaires until Ambassador Basilio recovers or until the arrival of the new ambassador under a new administration,” the source added.
Basilio’s medical confinement came at a time when a crucial arbitral tribunal decision that seeks to invalidate China’s massive claim over the South China Sea will be handed down anytime. The case was filed by the Philippines in January 2013, a move that has angered China, but earned praises from the international community, including the United States.
“The concern is that there is no functioning ambassador to Beijing when the tribunal rules on our case,” the source said.
Basilio, a retired career diplomat, is a political ambassador and was appointed to the post in 2012. She steps down when President Benigno Aquino III ends his term on June 30.
“We won’t have a new ambassador until the new president chooses one and goes through the bicameral Commission on Appointments and agrement from China. That takes three months minimum,” the source said. — RSJ, GMA News