Philip­pines’ new am­bas­sador was long­time res­i­dent of Bei­jing

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - TOP NEWS - By MO JINGXI mo­jingxi@chi­

The con­fir­ma­tion of a se­nior China spe­cial­ist as the Philip­pines’ new am­bas­sador to China is seen as the coun­try’s lat­est ef­fort to en­hance a re­la­tion­ship that had soured un­der the pre­vi­ous Philip­pine ad­min­is­tra­tion, Chi­nese ex­perts said.

The Philip­pine Congress con­firmed Jose San­ti­ago “Chito” Santa Ro­mana as am­bas­sador to China on Wed­nes­day, af­ter Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte put for­ward his nom­i­na­tion in Septem­ber.

On Thurs­day, Santa Ro­mana told a Chi­nese-lan­guage news­pa­per in the Philip­pines that he was hon­ored to be able to ac­cept the dif­fi­cult chal­lenges fac­ing him, and will try his best to fur­ther de­velop bi­lat­eral ties.

“I’m full of con­fi­dence in the bright prospects for bi­lat­eral ties,” he said.

The 68-year-old re­tired jour­nal­ist lived in China for two decades while work­ing as the Bei­jing bureau chief of ABC News.

In Au­gust, he ac­com­pa­nied Fidel Ramos, a for­mer Philip­pine pres­i­dent and spe­cial en­voy ap­pointed by Duterte, on his visit to Hong Kong, which helped to re­pair China-Philip­pine re­la­tions.

The in­com­ing am­bas­sador also said his pri­or­ity af­ter tak­ing of­fice, prob­a­bly in Jan­uary, is to im­ple­ment agree­ments the two coun­tries signed dur­ing Duterte’s visit in Oc­to­ber.

That trip to Bei­jing marked a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in re­la­tions, which hit tur­bu­lence un­der his pre­de­ces­sor, Benigno Aquino III, who uni­lat­er­ally launched an ar­bi­tra­tion case against China over the South China Sea.

Dur­ing Duterte’s visit, the coun­tries signed a dozen coop- er­a­tive doc­u­ments cov­er­ing ar­eas in­clud­ing in­vest­ment and tourism, and agreed to ad­dress dis­putes in the South China Sea peace­fully.

Xu Lip­ing, a se­nior re­searcher on South­east Asian stud­ies at the Chi­nese Academy of So­cial Sci­ences, said the con­fir­ma­tion of the new am­bas­sador shows that the new Philip­pine govern­ment is de­ter­mined to de­velop re­la­tions with China.

“A China hand will help to avoid mis­un­der­stand­ing and mis­judg­ment be­tween the two coun­tries, so as to bet­ter de­velop the re­la­tion­ship that has just got­ten back on the track of healthy de­vel­op­ment,” he said.

Li Jin­ming, a pro­fes­sor of South­east Asian stud­ies at Xi­a­men Uni­ver­sity, said the big­gest chal­lenge for the in­com­ing am­bas­sador was still the South China Sea is­sue.

But Santa Ro­mana said in an ear­lier in­ter­view with In­terAksyon that “the is­sue of sovereignty can be dis­cussed through quiet di­plo­macy and through di­rect talks”.

Jose San­ti­ago Santa Ro­mana, Philip­pine am­bas­sador to China

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