The Cambodian government has recalled its ambassador in Manila after the latter allegedly accused, in a letter, that the Philippines and Vietnam are resorting to "dirty politics" for insisting on the inclusion of the West Philippine Sea dispute in last month's ministerial meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Phnom Penh.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario confirmed this Friday morning at the sidelines of the 45th anniversary celebration of the founding of ASEAN held at the Department of Foreign Affairs' (DFA) Bulwagang Apolinario Mabini.
"All we received is a note verbale that says Ambassador Hos Sereythonh would be recalled and that another diplomat will be appointed to replace him," Del Rosario told reporters in an interview.
He disclosed that the incumbent ambassador is scheduled to leave on August 17.
In a separate interview, DFA Spokesperson Raul Hernandez said they received the note verbale from the Cambodian Embassy last week.
"This is a prerogative of a sending state to recall or to reassign its ambassador," Hernandez said, adding that the Philippine Embassy in Phnom Penh subsequently received a copy of the note verbale from the Cambodian Foreign Ministry.
"Cambodia is an ASEAN member and our friend and we hope that the Cambodian ambassador will reinforce the friendship that exists between the two countries," he said.
Hernandez said Cambodia did not state the reason for recalling its incumbent ambassador.
"I don't know what is the reason he was recalled but before that there was of course the article that was published in the newspaper," he said, stressing that the Philippine government did not make any request to recall Hos.
The DFA summoned Ambassador Hos two weeks ago to explain what he meant when he stated in a letter which appeared in a nationally-circulated paper that the "inflexible and non-negotiable position" of the Philippines and Vietnam on the inclusion of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute with China in the ASEAN ministerial meeting is "dirty politics."
The DFA said it intends to ask where the Cambodian ambassador obtained the information on the events as narrated since these are not consistent with the records of the ASEAN meetings.
At the same time, the DFA declared it wants to show to the Cambodian ambassador why the ASEAN Chairman was being viewed as unduly advancing a non-ASEAN country's interest, with a clear prejudice to positions of the Philippines and Vietnam, which are members of ASEAN.
However, it stressed in a statement that "as a matter of courtesy to our Cambodian friends, we will ask the ambassador if he can kindly authorize the release to the public of evidence - which should end all speculation on what really happened in Phnom Penh."
Despite repeated summons through note verbale, Hos failed to show up at the DFA, claiming illness and sending instead his deputy, Second Secretary Tan Chandaravuth.
"Practically what we indicated in the note verbale is to ask for clarification regarding the statement that was published about two weeks ago," the DFA spokesperson said.
Hernandez explained that there are other grounds for the recall of a diplomat as well.
"Sometimes we think he would be better off in another place because his expertise is necessary in another place so we recall him and then assign him to another area," he said. "Sometimes we would recall an ambassador because his or her performance in that country is not anymore very effective so we recall and replace him with another."
Del Rosario, meanwhile, expressed confidence that the decision by Cambodia to recall its ambassador will not affect bilateral relations with the Philippines.
"I would like to think that we are looking at a healthy bilateral relations with Cambodia," the foreign affairs chief said.
Del Rosario himself deplored the non-issuance of a Joint Communique with regards to the longstanding West Philippine Sea dispute upon the conclusion of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting last month--unprecedented in ASEAN's 45 years of existence.
At first, several ASEAN Member-States and the ASEAN Secretariat supported the Philippine position that the fact that the Scarborough Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc) issue was discussed in the Ministerial Meeting should be reflected in the Joint Communique. However, Cambodia, as this year's ASEAN chairman, consistently opposed any mention of the Scarborough Shoal at all in the Joint Communique. It announced upon the conclusion of the ministerial meeting that a Joint Communique "cannot be issued."