MANILA, Philippines – After failing to get an “indisposed” Cambodian ambassador to personally explain yesterday his accusation of “dirty politics” in the Philippines’ stand on the West Philippine Sea issue with China, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it will continue to summon the envoy “until he is able to come to the DFA.”
“We summoned the ambassador but he remains indisposed. We hope he will come when he is no longer indisposed,” DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez said, referring to Cambodian Ambassador Hos Sereythonh.
The ambassador was originally summoned to appear at the DFA on Monday to receive a note verbale and explain his accusation, but he begged off for health reasons. Instead, Hos sent Cambodian embassy Second Secretary Tan Chandaravuth to represent him.
Hernandez said the DFA, through Undersecretary Erlinda Basilio, handed the note verbale to Tan.
Hernandez said they also want Hos to authorize the release of all records of what transpired during the recent 45th ministerial meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Phnom Penh to disprove his accusation that the Philippines and Vietnam engaged in “dirty politics” in pressing for their “inflexible and non-negotiable” position on the inclusion of the West Philippine Sea issue in the conference’s agenda.
Hos raised his accusations in his letter to The STAR.
Cambodia had opposed the two countries’ proposal that the grouping come out with a joint communiqué on the West Philippine Sea issue.
“We wanted to ask the ambassador if they could authorize the release to the public of evidence which should end all speculations on what really happened in Phnom Penh as a matter of courtesy to our Cambodian friends,” Hernandez said.
“We hope to receive a reply. For now he is indisposed but we will keep on summoning him until he is able to come to the DFA,” he said.
He emphasized that unlike Hos, Basilio was present in all the meetings in Phnom Penh.
“We try to find out what exactly is the meaning of this statement because these are rather strong accusations that we are playing dirty politics,” he added.
When asked if the ambassador could be declared persona non grata, Hernandez said: “We are not going there yet.”
What is important is for him to explain to us what he meant by the statement that he released or wrote in that letter-to-the-editor in The Philippine STAR.”
The DFA defended Basilio from Hos’ accusation that she had tried to manipulate, distort and exaggerate developments in the West Philippine Sea involving China in order to make her case.
Hos had also claimed that Basilio’s article “What happened in Phnom Penh?” represented the country’s official position.
Basilio, Hernandez said, is “a professional diplomat with an unblemished record of nearly 50 years of service to the country.”
“Her statements were objective, factual and true. More importantly, Undersecretary Basilio was present in all the meetings in Phnom Penh. The Cambodian ambassador was not,” he said.
Cambodia, which hosted the recent ASEAN meeting, opposed the discussion of the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal issue and its inclusion in the grouping’s joint communiqué.
The Philippines and other ASEAN members deplored the non-issuance of a joint communiqué, which was unprecedented in the regional bloc’s 45-year history.
Hernandez said that strangely, Cambodia appointed a committee, which included the Philippines and Vietnam, to form consensus on a final draft for an ASEAN stand.
“Upon a series of many negotiations, at least five final drafts achieved a consensus. Notwithstanding authority granted the committee, all final drafts were disapproved by the chair,” he said.
The DFA said “as a matter of courtesy to our Cambodian friends,” Hos would be asked to reveal where he got the information on the events he narrated in his letter, since his accounts were inconsistent with the records of the ASEAN meetings.
“We also intend to show the Cambodian ambassador why the ASEAN chair was being viewed as unduly advancing a non-ASEAN country’s interest, with a clear prejudice to positions of the Philippines and Vietnam, members of ASEAN,” Hernandez said.
Hos claimed in his letter that both the Philippines and Vietnam continued to insist from the start of the meeting until its end on July 13 to include their national bilateral disputes with China in the joint communiqué.