Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Amid the escalating diplomatic tension with China, the Philippine Palace is sticking with Domingo Lee as its nominee as ambassador to China even if he has been repeatedly bypassed by the Commission on Appointments (CA).
There has been no Philippine ambassador to Beijing for over a year.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte did not give a direct answer to questions on whether the Palace was considering appointing someone else in order to speed up the appointment of an ambassador to Beijing.
Valte said ¿there has been a hold up in the confirmation of Lee," noting that ¿he has to answer some questions asked of him by members of the CA."
Valte said Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario himself has been on top of negotiations in connection with the recent standoff between the Philippine and Chinese navies off Scarborough Shoal or Panatag Shoal. The standoff occurred when Chinese Navy ships stopped Philippine authorities from arresting Chinese fishermen caught poaching in the country¿s waters.
¿The situation now is being ably handled of course by Secretary Del Rosario," Valte said over government radio dzRB.
Tensions between the Philippines and China eased the other day when the Chinese vessels left the shoal. But the fishermen were able to elude arrest, taking with them their loot consisting endangered corals and clams.
Valte did not comment on the Scarborough episode, saying that all responses would be best left to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) given ¿the sensitive nature of the incident."
She stressed, however, that the government was maintaining its claim over the shoal, which is off Zambales and within the country¿s exclusive economic zone, but ¿also recognizes the need to resort to diplomacy here."
¿We must always avail of the diplomatic process to settle incidents like this one, which is why we have always deferred to the DFA when it comes to situations like this," she said.
Asked to assess the Philippine Navy¿s capability to police local waters following the incident, she replied: ¿The capability of the Navy is not based on one single incident but on a confluence of factors."
She said the government continued to upgrade its Navy and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in general because it was its duty to do so and ¿not because of one incident in mind."
On suggestions that the country seek help from fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to stop the Chinese incursions, she again declined to comment, saying that the DFA would be in the best position to give an opinion on this.
Asked if the country would ask the United States for assistance, she said this was a diplomatic issue involving the Philippines and China.
On asking the US to speak up on the issue as suggested by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Valte said this was not even being discussed ¿because the concentration really is on how to resolve the incident through diplomatic means."
¿The focus is on keeping the lines open to ensure a diplomatic solution," she said.
Valte also dismissed comments that the scheduled PH-US Balikatan exercises this week were meant to be a show of force to the Chinese.
Valte said the military exercises had been scheduled a long time ago and had ¿nothing to do with the incident in the shoal."