Leading PH expert on China succumbs to suspected COVID-19

Christian Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 21 2020 10:17 AM | Updated as of Mar 21 2020 08:08 PM

MANILA—A Filipino academician, considered as a leading expert on China, passed away early Saturday morning due to suspected COVID-19.

Professor Aileen Baviera died at 3:55 a.m. at the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila, where she was confined due to severe pneumonia. She was 60.

At the time of her death, the hospital was still awaiting official test results to determine if she was indeed suffering from COVID-19, a fast-spreading disease which has killed 18 people in the country, based on official government figures as of March 20.

She previously travelled to Paris, France where she was believed to have caught the virus.

A post from the UP Diliman Facebook paged confirmed the death of the former dean of its Asian Center and “one of the country’s foremost sinologists.”

Baviera’s colleague, professor Francisco Lara, described her as a “giant among scholars here and abroad, our foremost sinologist and expert on the West Philippine Sea.”

“She gave her mind and soul to our country as a consistent and strong advocate of a strong and independent but collaborative foreign policy approach toward our neighbors in Asia and the world,” Lara told ABS-CBN News. 

Baviera was a prolific and highly respected academic, her opinion often sought in local and international conferences, especially at the height of the dispute in the South China Sea.

“She steered a nuanced foreign policy agenda that enabled deeper collaboration with Asia’s Leviathan though she never gave an inch on the issue of Philippine control over the West Philippine Sea,” Lara said.

“We lost a patriot that was intelligent, credible, and well received by scholars here and abroad, plus a body of academic and research work that will take many years to build upon.”