But maintain duty to protect PH territory
SENATOR Jose Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada, Chairperson of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Commission on Appointments (CA), presided over the hybrid meeting on the nominations and ad interim appointments of 61 foreign service officials led by Ambassador Teodoro Locsin Jr. to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The panel later recommended the confirmation of 60 foreign service officials for plenary approval, except the nomination of Manuel Antonio Javier Teehankee as the country’s representative to the World Trade Organization (WTO) based in Geneva, Switzerland. Teehankee’s nomination was deferred since members of the bicameral body would like to raise some policy questions.
Meanwhile, CA Chairperson Juan Miguel Migz Zubiri said it is high time that our country extends open arms to everyone but, at the same time, makes sure that we “don’t sacrifice our territorial water.”
“Be a friend to all but firm with our territorial waters,” Zubiri stressed to Jaime FlorCruz, whose nomination as the country’s ambassador to China has been deliberated upon by the CA Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Zubiri asked FlorCruz to “be firm” in light of fresh reports stating that dozens of Chinese vessels are moving closer to Palawan and the scheduled visit of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to China in January.
“I hope that we can have that same policy, a friend to all but firm with our territorial waters, Mr. Ambassador. That is the advice I would like to give you. That is the sense of the Senate and this body, the CA. Please protect our territorial integrity when you are there representing us in China,” Zubiri said.
For his part, FlorCruz, whose nomination was later confirmed in plenary, gave the assurance that his goal is to serve as a bridge between the two governments and “to relay accurately, clearly, promptly” the position of the Philippines, especially in cases of intrusion in territorial waters.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros asked FlorCruz how the country could engage with progressives and moderates in the Chinese government to ensure regional stability.
“How can we arrive at a fair and equitable settlement vis-à-vis our territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and China Seas?” Hontiveros asked FlorCruz.
FlorCruz, a former CNN chief correspondent in Beijing who worked and traveled in China for more than 40 years, said that the Philippines should engage with China and wish them well in their endeavors. He told Hontiveros that a “stable China” would be good for the Philippines.
Sen. Francis “Tol” Tolentino tossed questions about the United States of America (USA) and China relations and how their rivalry will affect the Philippines during the hearing.
Tolentino asked how China’s foreign policies will impact the country as he cited an article published on October 12, 2022, in the Nikkei Asia with the title “Xi’s China has made three foreign policy mistakes.”
“The article was about an interview with retired Singapore Ambassador Bilahari Kausikan, who reflected on the Chinese leader’s style and how US-China tensions may play out in the years ahead.
Given the closely-intertwined economic positions of China and the USA and their respective relations with the Philippines, how [will this] impact China-Philippines relations? If so, in what manner?” Tolentino asked.
In response, FlorCruz admitted that the issue is a “very complex” matter, but he suggested that the country should be aware of the growing rivalry between the two powerful countries and that the country should continue its engagement with the US and China.