FOREIGN Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. has submitted shortlists containing the names of candidates for ambassador to two key diplomatic posts: Washington and Beijing.
“I have given the President a shortlist of three names that includes at least one career [diplomat],” he told The Manila Times editorial team in a roundtable discussion on Monday, referring to the Washington posting.
Yasay also said he had recommended three names for Malacañang to choose the next ambassador to Beijing.
The Cabinet official, however, declined to reveal the names of the candidates for both posts.
Former Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia Jr., 72., an appointee of former President Benigno Aquino 3rd, declined an offer to stay on in Washington.
In Beijing, there has been no functioning Philippine ambassador since April after Ambassador Erlinda Basilio, 71, suffered a severe throat problem that needed hospitalization.
Basilio’s deputy, Minister Counsellor Elizabeth Te, is in charge of the Philippine embassy in Beijing.
Yasay said he hopes to improve ties between the Philippines and China whose relationship is at a low point following the July 12 ruling of an international arbitral tribunal that invalidated Beijing’s historical claims to much of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
‘Very close’ relationship
The Foreign secretary also said he had spoken to US ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg after President Rodrigo Duterte called the envoy “gay” and “annoying” in a speech in Cebu last August 5.
Yasay said the American ambassador complained of how the story was treated as a diplomatic row in the US when, in fact, the relationship of the two countries remains “very close.”
The Philippines is the US’ oldest Asian partner and a major non-North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally.
Yasay did not mention Goldberg’s take on Duterte’s remarks.
Instead, Yasay explained that Duterte was talking in a historical context to a domestic audience in Mindanao.
In a statement last week, the US Embassy in the Philippines said it found “inappropriate and unacceptable” the comments on Goldberg.
The embassy cited Goldberg as a “multi-time ambassador and one of the US Department of State’s most senior diplomats.”
Goldberg will be soon replaced by Sung Kim, special US representative for North Korea policy and former envoy to South Korea.