Philippines’ new ambassador was longtime resident of Beijing
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