(Updated 3:56 p.m.) Aside from being the newly-confirmed Interior and Local Government Secretary, Manuel Roxas II has another assignment from the President—to deliver a message to China, although he declined to reveal the message or even the subject.
President Benigno Aquino III is set to name his defeated running-mate as a presidential envoy and send him to China, Roxas confirmed in an interview with Arnold Clavio over Unang Hirit Thursday morning.
Roxas' new mission comes in the wake of revelations at an acrimonious Senate session on Wednesday that Sen. Antonio Trillanes privately advocated for Roxas to replace Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario. Trillanes had been assigned by President Aquino to be a back-channel negotiator with China.
“Hindi ko po masasabi ‘yung detalye pero ang sabi ng Pangulo bibigyan niya tayo ng designasyon bilang envoy, presidential envoy,” he said.
In the same interview, Roxas denied that he will be replacing Del Rosario as head of DFA as allegedly suggested by Senator Antonio Trillanes.
“Mawalang galang po kay Sen. Trillanes, e hindi naman po si Sen. Trillanes ang gumagawa ng foreign policy natin kundi ang Pangulo. Ang pagkaalam ko e mataas ang respeto ng Pangulo kay Sec. Albert del Rosario,” he said.
“In fact, itong aking assignment, si Sec. Del Rosario ng DFA ang magbibigay ng briefing so nasa ilalim ito ng chain of command magmula sa Pangulo, Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Ako naman ay ginagawang utusan lang o tagadala ng mensahe,” he added.
Trillanes admitted Wednesday that he held backchannel talks
with China to resolve the territorial dispute over Spratly Islands. He said he was sent by the President on a "confidential mission.”
Malacañang, however, said it was Trillanes who volunteered for the job.
Roxas' new assignment
Roxas said the President met him Wednesday and advised him of the new assignment.
“Kahapon pinatawag po tayo ng Pangulo at inabisuhan na may assignment siyang ibibigay at ngayong umaga ko malalaman ang detalye,” he said.
Asked if the assignment has anything to do with the tension on Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, Roxas said all he know is that he needs to talk to someone in China.
He said Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario is set to brief him later today on the details of his assignment and the message the President wanted him to deliver.
“Merong kailangang kausapin dun at ngayon ako ibi-brief kung ano ang nilalaman ng mensahe na gustong ipaabot ng Pangulo,” he said.
The row between the Philippines and China at Panatag Shoal started last April when Philippine forces spotted Chinese fishermen gathering marine species in the area.
When Philippine forces tried to make arrests, Chinese ships blocked their path. CAEXPO
As his first task as presidential envoy to China, Roxas would be sent to attend the 9th China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) upon Del Rosario's recommendation.
CAEXPO, co-sponsored by China and ASEAN, is an international event held annually since 2004 aimed at promoting the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA), the DFA said.
In a press statement, the DFA said CAEXPO, which will be held from September 21 to 25, 2012 in Nanning, China, is an excellent platform for cooperation in the fields of infrastructure investment, trade, and tourism, among others.
It added the Chinese government had earlier requested the Philippines to send a high-level delegation to the CAEXPO. China’s Vice President Xi Jinping is attending the CAEXPO.
The President of Myanmar, Prime Ministers of Laos and Vietnam, and the Deputy Prime Ministers of Malaysia and Thailand are expected to attend the CAEXPO.
The DFA said Del Rosario’s recommendation is based on the Philippines being the Country of Honor in next year’s CAEXPO. Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda was, likewise, recommended by DFA to join the other members of the Philippine delegation to the CAEXPO.
DFA is making arrangements for Roxas and the Philippine delegation to meet with high-level Chinese officials. –Amita O. Legaspi/KG/HS/KBK, GMA News