MANILA- The rejection of Perfecto Yasay Jr. as foreign affairs secretary is “embarrassing” for the Philippines given that he had been representing the country in important diplomatic engagements, a former envoy said Thursday.
Former Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia Jr. said, even though he understands why lawmakers had to reject Yasay, it is still an embarrassment for the Philippines given the country’s chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year.
“I understand why the Commission on Appointments (CA) rejected the application or nomination of Secretary Perfecto Yasay but it is of course embarrassing for the Philippines especially because the Philippines is currently the chairman of ASEAN,” Cuisia said on ANC’s “Early Edition.”
The CA on Wednesday unanimously rejected Yasay's appointment due to statements he gave to the CA regarding his US citizenship.
Yasay made light of the rejection by saying he now has more time to spend with his family but insisted that he did not lie to the CA about his citizenship.
Cuisia had previously expressed his disappointment over Yasay’s handling of the South China Sea dispute.
“We can’t confront China but we should be able to get the international community to try to convince China to uphold the rule of law, respect the decision. But if we are first one to set aside the ruling, how can we expect the international community to put pressure to China to respect that decision?” Cuisia said.
The CA's rejection, however, gives President Rodrigo Duterte an opportunity to appoint a “more qualified” foreign affairs chief, Cuisia said.
Duterte on Thursday tapped Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Enrique Manalo as acting head of the department, replacing Yasay.
The former envoy also commented on a reported statement of Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua, criticizing the previous administration of Benigno Aquino Jr. and calling for the grant of emergency powers to Duterte to address the traffic crisis.
“The Chinese ambassador has no business telling our Congress how to act in terms of the emergency powers bill. That is a domestic affair that he should not be interfering with. How would he act or react if our ambassador to China were to tell the People’s Congress how to act on a particular issue? I think it was an uncalled for comment from the Chinese ambassador,” Cuisia said.