"Sta. Romana cannot be sold down the river."
Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana, the true diplomat that he is, fielded questions from the Filipino press covering President Rodrigo Duterte’s official visit to Beijing.
Fluent in Mandarin, Sta. Romana learned the intricate Chinese official language in his years of exile in China during the Marcos martial law.
“President Duterte’s approach is to build, not burn bridges, to China,” he explained, adding that as a friend of Chinese President Xi Jinping, he can bring up any subject in their one-on-one meeting. Yes, any subject, including the arbitral ruling favoring Manila’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone mandate under UNCLOS and rejecting Beijing’s sweeping claim of nearly the entire South China Sea.
There are six agreements to be signed, including a contract for joint exploration of oil and gas in the West Philippine Sea, said Sta. Romana. He also begged off on questions outside his purview and on the details of the agreements, saying he’s not the entire government and that some of the issues will have to be answered by the proper authority like the Secretaries of Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade and Industry.
On a very important matter, Sta. Romana revealed China has apologized for the Reed (Recto) Bank ramming of a Filipino fishing boat by a large Chinese fishing boat. He said the Philippine delegation has received a copy of the Chinese investigation of the incident. The owner and captain of the Chinese vessel apologized and admitted that it was a mistake to abandon the Filipinos in their half-submerged boat. But whether the owner of the Chinese fishing boat would compensate for the damages and loss of livelihood by the Filipino fishermen is still subject to further discussion, said Sta. Romana. He said the Philippines would take it one day at a time.
Sta. Romana said that among the topics at the Philippine-China bilateral talks are the proposed three bridges to be built through Chinese financing under the Philippines’ Build Build Build infrastructure program. These will ease vehicular traffic along Edsa, particularly the Guadalupe bridge seen as the bottleneck between Quezon City and Makati.
Sta. Romana fielded questions with clear and and concise answers. Appointed during the last days of the Noynoy Aquino adminsiration, Sta. Romana was retained by President Duterte who saw that he would have a competent envoy in the former leftist militant who spent years of exile in China. Sta. Romana was also chief correspondent and Beijing station manager for ABC News, a US network.
Our man in Beijing cannot be sold down the river. The Chinese politburo knows he can speak fluent Mandarin. Although a political appointee, Sta. Romana is the best choice as our man in Beijing. Not even the career diplomats at the Department of Foreign Affairs can dispute that.
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In another part of the world, Britain is starting to feel the impact of its exit from the European Union. Foremost of these effects is the pound sterling’s decline against the US dollar. Outside the EU, Britain’s trade has shrunk with many foreign investors fearful of further erosion of their funds in an isolated United Kingdom.
China is a potential market for Britain but the current Hong Kong people’s protest has clouded such an option. Hong Kong is a former British colony turned over to China in 1997 and political freedom is a visceral issue with the Brits. To do trade with a repressive regime in China runs counter to British principle.
The new British Prime Minister has requested Queen Elizabeth to suspend parliament. But the British people are against dragging the Queen to Boris Johnson’s plan to shut out the noise he also created in ousting Brexit advocate Theresa May.
Will Boris Johnson be able to do what former PM Margaret Thatcher did when she brought back the British economy from the tyranny of the trade unions that also flattened the pound one to one against the US dollar? Johnson does not look like he has the firm leadership of a Thatcher.