AMID the Philippines’ raging dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea, the government is sticking to the best, and probably lone, weapon at its disposal–diplomacy.

And at the frontline of this strategy is Sonia Brady, one of the country’s most accomplished and reliable diplomats. The 70-year-old Brady, a product of UST’s journalism program, breezed through the confirmation process at the Commission on Appointments (CA) last May 30.

Besides Brady, another Thomasian is serving as an envoy under the Aquino administration. Carlos Salinas, who graduated from the College of Commerce in 1955, is the Philippine ambassador to Spain.

President Aquino picked Brady out of retirement at a time when the Philippines is trying to stave off Chinese incursions in the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal near Zambales. Both countries are also disputing ownership of parts of the Spratly Islands with four other claimants.

Brady, who graduated magna cum laude at the old Faculty of Philosophy and Letters (Philets) in 1962, is not new to the assignment. She was ambassador to China from April 2006 to January 2010 before retiring. From 1976 to 1978, she was also a secondary secretary and consul at the Philippine embassy in Beijing.

Brady was tapped to replace Domingo Lee, a family friend of the Aquinos. Lee was repeatedly bypassed by the CA, apparently for his general lack of knowledge on diplomacy.

De-escalation

At her confirmation hearing, Brady gave a glimpse of how she planned to approach the problem with China.

“The reason that I’m being sent there is to try to seek a diplomatic solution to the problem,” she told the CA as reported by the Philippine Star.

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“The only thing I can do is to try and convey our position to the Chinese government and see how we can de-escalate the situation and turn off the fire so that the two countries can talk and find a solution to the problem.”

Last April 8, Chinese vessels blocked Philippine patrol ships to prevent the arrest of Chinese fishermen accused of illegally poaching of sharks and collecting rare clams and corals at the Scarborough Shoal. The area is well within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

Brady’s path to the world of diplomacy began when she took up Foreign Studies at the University of the Philippines. She later finished a degree in International Relations at the University of California.

She served as an assistant at the Office of Political Affairs from 1968 to 1976 and became director of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Office of Asia and the Pacific from 1988 to 1992. She also held the DFA undersecretary for policy post from 2003 to 2006.

Brady was named envoy to Thailand from 2002 to 2003 and Myanmar from 1995 to 1999. Prior to these assignment, she was the deputy chief of mission to Indonesia from 1994 to 1995 and Thailand from 1992 to 1994.

Maritime veteran

Salinas’ posting may not be as controversial, but it’s not any less important. He was named ambassador to Spain on Nov. 17, 2010.

He hopes to help boost Philippine tourism, which is now getting some aggressive marketing through the campaign slogan “It’s More Fun in the Philippines.” He looks up to Spain, a top tourist destination.

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“You know how they did it? It is just a matter of infrastructure, roads, hotels, organizations, trading, and manpower,” he said in a previous interview with the Varsitarian.

Salinas is best known for his work in the maritime sector, having founded the Philippine Transmarine Carriers in 1979. He was also the vice president of the International Shipping Federation in London and the chairman of the Filipino Shipowners Association.

For all his work and contributions, Salinas was conferred the Lifetime Achievement and Leadership Excellence Award at the 10th Asia-Pacific Manning and Training Conference on Nov. 4, 2009. He was also named the Most Outstanding Alumni of UST. Juan Carlos D. Moreno, Catalina Ricci S. Madarang, and Alfredo N. Mendoza V

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