THE Philippines may not have an ambassador in China when the international tribunal hands down its ruling on the arbitration case involving the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) in May or June.
Sources from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Wednesday that Ambassador Erlinda Basilio, 71, is currently undergoing a tracheotomy – an opening surgically created through the neck into the windpipe to allow direct access to a breathing tube.
Sources said the senior diplomat will not be able to perform her duties because she will have to be confined at a hospital in Beijing for several months.
DFA Assistant Secretary Charles Jose confirmed the report but did not provide additional details on Basilio’s health condition.
“We confirm that Philippine Ambassador to China Erlina Basilio has been hospitalized. She is under the care of a team of good doctors,” he said in a brief text message.
He added that Basilio’s deputy, Minister Counsellor Elizabeth Te, is in charge of the country’s embassy in Beijing in the absence of the ambassador.
With the term of President Benigno Aquino 3rd ending in June, the appointment of a new ambassador is not likely because it will take a long process.
Basilio was appointed to the post in 2012. Her term will also end when the administration changes in June.
Manila filed a memorial against Beijing before the Permanent Arbitration Court (PCA) in The Hague in 2013 to affirm its right to areas within 200 nautical miles of its coastline, under the terms of a United Nations convention.
A ruling on the maritime entitlement is set this year after the tribunal decided in October last year that it has jurisdiction to hear some territorial claims.