By Roy Mabasa
Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua is slated to leave Manila for another posting starting next month, Presidential Communications and Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar disclosed in a statement last week.
Andanar made the disclosure during the signing and exchange of certificates on the Philippine Radio Equipment Project, which provided for the Chinese donation of broadcasting equipment to the Philippine Broadcasting Service (PBS), an agency under the PCOO.
“Thank you so much, Ambassador Zhao, as he leaves the Philippines for another assignment by November. I send him a message of wellness, I send a message of peace, and I send a message of godspeed to Ambassador Zhao,” Andanar said.
The 53-year-old Zhao was appointed as ambassador to the country in 2014 at the height of a political tension between Manila and Beijing arising from an earlier maritime standoff between a Philippine Navy ship and several Chinese vessels in Scarborough Shoal or otherwise or the Bajo de Masinloc.
The outgoing Chinese envoy also came at a time when the Philippines filed a petition before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague questioning China’s outrageous “nine-dash-line” claim in the South China Sea.
On July 12, 2016, or several days after newly-elected President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office, the Arbitral Tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippine petition invalidating Beijing’s nine-dash-line claim which was vaguely illustrated as U-shape in the Chinese map.
However, it was during Zhao’s more than five years stint when the Philippines under the Duterte administration opted to adopt closer relations with China, a great departure from the policy of the previous administration who caused the filing of the petition against Beijing before The Hague court.
At the turnover ceremony, Andanar personally thanked the Chinese envoy for facilitating the donation.
“We see our relationship growing stronger and stronger,” Andanar added.