MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sergio Osmeña III could not agree more when President Benigno Aquino III raised the possibility that he would replace the incumbent Philippine ambassador to China.
It was Osmeña who repeatedly questioned Ambassador Domingo Lee’s qualifications during his confirmation hearings at the powerful Commission on Appointments. The senator even urged the President to withdraw Lee’s appointment.
“The President said it accurately. With the Scarborough situation, the country needs an ambassador with a special set of skills,” said Osmeña in a text message on Tuesday.
He said Lee should be replaced by a “trained and experienced career diplomat with previous exposure to treaty negotiations and West Philippine Sea issues.”
“At this juncture, it is in our national interest to have a trained and experienced diplomat assigned to Beijing to assist our President and Secretary del Rosario in responding to the critical situation in the West Philippine Sea,” Osmeña said in a separate text message to reporters.
Del Rosario is Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario.
Tension erupted between the Philippines and China in April when eight Chinese fishing boats were caught poaching in waters off the shoal, which the Philippines has claimed to be part of its territory by virtue of the international law of the sea.
An attempt by Philippine authorities to arrest the Chinese fishermen was blocked by China which sent two of its vessels and on claims that the shoal belonged to them historically.
While the fishing boats had left, two Chinese ships remained in the area and the Philippines has maintained a Coast Guard vessel.
The Philippines, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, filed a new diplomatic protest over allegations of harassment by China.