Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago “Chito” Sta. Romana died on Monday “due to an illness,” the Department of Foreign Affairs announced Tuesday. He was 74.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs offers its sincere condolences to the family and loved ones of Ambassador Chito, to our nation for its great loss. We pray for the eternal repose of his soul,” the DFA said in a statement.
In Malacañang, acting Presidential spokesman Martin Andanar expressed appreciation for Sta. Romana’s service and his contributions to bilateral relations.
His sister Neni said her brother died in Huangshan, Anhui province where he was undergoing a required quarantine before returning to Beijing.
The Philippine Embassy in Beijing is coordinating with the Chinese authorities for the immediate repatriation of Sta. Romana’s remains.
Sta. Romana was appointed Philippine ambassador to China on Dec. 7, 2016.
The DFA said he was appointed “in recognition of his deep knowledge of China’s history and people.”
During his tenure, Philippines and China’s relations “flourished despite differences” and “flowered all the more in maturity and were deeply strengthened.”
“We honor his important legacy of selfless service to the Filipino in the most challenging foreign post,” the DFA said.
Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian condoled with Sta. Romana’s family and friends, including the DFA and Philippine government.
“I greatly value our time working together and will always be grateful for his friendship and undeniable contribution to the development of China-Philippines relations,” Huang said in a statement.
The Chinese envoy said Sta. Romana was among the first Filipinos to visit the new China when he headed the visiting Philippine Youth Delegation in 1971.
“Over the past 51 years, starting from a foreign student learning Chinese in Beijing, to ABC’s China correspondent for over 20 years and to Philippine Ambassador to China, Ambassador Chito has spent the best part of his life understanding and helping the world and the Philippines to understand China. China-Philippine relations have been strengthened and indeed flourished under his distinguished tenure as the Philippine Ambassador to China,” Huang said.
China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin also condoled with the diplomat’s loved ones and paid tribute to his contributions to the China-Philippines relations.
“After assuming the post of the Philippine Ambassador to China in 2017, he worked actively and industriously, making important contributions to promoting bilateral relations and friendship between our two peoples,” Wang said in a statement.
“We are deeply grieved by the loss of a good friend and extend our heartfelt condolences to his loved ones. We will work together with his family and the Philippine Embassy in China to properly handle follow-up matters and provide every convenience possible,” the Chinese official added.