NEW YORK – “It’s a major step in the right direction,” said Consul General Theresa Dizon-de Vega of the nomination of media executive Jose Manuel ‘Babe’ Romualdez as the next Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United States of America during a press conference with the media led by the Filipino American Press Club of New York August 14.
She said that having an ambassador will help in the normalization of PH-US relations. This echoed the statement made by Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella announcing the nomination of Romualdez on July 28, 2017.
Abella said: “We are confident that with Mr. Romualdez at the helm of the Philippine embassy in Washington DC, [it] will further strengthen PH-US relations and promote stronger cooperation between the two countries.”
This development comes at a time the Philippines, under President Duterte’s administration, is regarded as turning away from the US – its long-time ally – and moving towards closer relations with China and Russia.
The ambassadorship post has remained unencumbered since Jose Cuisia Jr.’s tour of duty as Philippine Ambassador to the US ended in June 2016. Duterte previously tapped Romualdez, appointing him as special envoy to the US. However, when offered the US top post in December last year, Romualdez reportedly declined due to an eye operation set for January.
At present, Patrick Chuasoto is Charge d’Affaires, a term used of a diplomat who heads a diplomatic mission in the absence of an ambassador.
Dizon-de Vega said: “It is very different when there’s a permanent ambassador because it really shows the importance you give to the relations, it shows the confidence you have and the desire to keep the relations at a healthy, very positive level.”
The Ambassador-Designate started his career in media as a news reporter for RPN Primetime Television News in the Philippines eventually becoming executive assistant to the Chairman of the Board of the same station. He was also president and later, as vice chairman of the Board of the Television Corporation of the Philippines.
He is currently the president and CEO of Stargate Media Corp., an affiliate of Philippine Star, where he writes as a columnist, and the publishing company of PEOPLE Asia Magazine. He is the president of the Manila Overseas Press Club Press Club and vice president of Rotary Manila. He is also the chairman of the Philippine offices of several US-based multinational firms, including FCB Manila and Weber Shandwick Philippines.
Romualdez has reportedly cultivated relationships with US officials. According to the Consul General, “the feedback (on Romualdez) so far from US officials has been very positive.” She said that she was with Romualdez when they met with Sung Kim, US Ambassador to the Philippines, during a donation ceremony of two surveillance planes.
“They’ve been talking and so I think we can move forward on a lot of things. There’s a lot in the agenda,” Dizon-de Vega said.
The agenda would likely include the political security front, economic issues, the Millennium Challenge and the development assistance such as the USAID which has a strong presence in the Visayas and Mindanao, regional and international security concerns and tensions in the Korean peninsula.
Romualdez’s official move to Washington may occur by the end of the year following a lengthy vetting process beginning with the Commission on Appointments (CA). The CA’s Foreign Affairs committee, chaired by Senator Panfilo Lacson, will be conducting the confirmation hearings.
He will also have to be accredited as a new ambassador to the US through an agrement protocol and await approval, which usually takes 2 to 3 months. Agrement often is requested in the form of a diplomatic note from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to the American Embassy in Manila.
As ambassador, Romualdez will have concurrent jurisdiction over the Commonwealth of Jamaica, Republic of Haiti, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, The Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and Grenadines and Saint Lucia.