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Bicameral panel confirms Romualdez as envoy to US

NEWLY-CONFIRMED ambassador to the United States Manuel Romualdez vowed to make the Philippines’ relationship with the US “warmer” after getting the nod of the powerful Commission on Appointments on Wednesday. 

Romualdez said he will communicate to the US government the independent foreign policy being advocated by President Rodrigo Duterte.

“I think the US is cognizant of the fact that we have to try our best to have warmer relations with other countries,” said the 69-year-old Romualdez who was confirmed after hurdling the hearing by the  CA’s foreign affairs committee led by Senator  Panfilo Lacson.

Romualdez also said he was informed that US President Donald Trump was coming to the Philippines to attend the Asean meeting in November. 

He said he will interact with many of US institutions, particularly the US Congress, since “we have not been  able to interact with them for more than a year.”

Asked about the challenges he faces, Romualdez said: “It’s more of just simply having the same kind of relationship, strengthening it and just putting it in an even keel, meaning to say to explain to our friends in Washington the President’s  policy on many issues.

“I think it’s clear that our military alliance with the US is a very strong one and it continues to be strong, and this is shown by the fact that we have many visitors coming here from the military. In fact, Admiral Harris is right here today. He is the commander of the Pacific  command, and they’ve also delivered several hardware material for us, the recent delivery of two spy planes.

WARMER FROM WARM. Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III (left), chairman of the Commission on Appointments, congratulates Jose Manuel Romualdez, 69, after his confirmation as new ambassador to the United States. Romualdez has stressed that Manila-Washington ties are warm ‘but we’ll try to make it warmer despite the independent foreign policy advocated by President Duterte.’ Lino Santos

“All of these are part of what that relationship is, a very strong military alliance, and EDCA  is just a sort of like an agreement that strengthens that kind of relationship.”

In his nomination speech, Lacson stressed that with Romualdez, whom he said started as a television newscaster for RPN-9 in the 1970s, “we guarantee strong diplomatic engagement with the United States.”

He said US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim himself welcomed Romualdez’s appointment.

In endorsing the confirmation of Romualdez, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said “soon-to-be man in Washington, DC is no babe in the woods in US affairs.”

Though principally based in Manila, Recto said, Romualdez had enough contacts in the American capital that he could be considered a Beltway insider. 

“So wide is his network, I was told, that should  Trump drain the swamp, those flushed away and those who will remain are surely friends of his,” Recto  said. 

“So wired is he with the beating heart of the US government that a friend has joked that if the nominee decides to swim across the Potomac unannounced, someone in Foggy Bottom will be waiting with a set of dry clothes for him.”

Recto said Romualdez had many other competencies aside from his communication skills, which made him a fine diplomat. He said Romualdez was articulate in both the spoken and written word. 

“He was a TV reporter, and remains a working journalist churning multiple columns in a week in addition to running a publishing house,” Recto said.

“Though he has not held public office, he dabbles in policy, which qualifies him as a public intellectual whose views shape the major decisions taken by those in power. He is an influencer, but of the cerebral kind whose contributions to civic debates are not confined to 140-character blasts or troll-friendly memes, but in well thought-out think pieces.

“The CA briefing paper says he is an Americanophile, which is good because it means that he is abreast with US developments and attuned to policy debates that would have an impact on our country.” 

Recto said Romualdez would go to the US capital during one of the lowest points of Philippine-US relations. 

But  he believed he could heal whatever fissures there were and correct whatever misconceptions had arisen in recent months.

Senator Loren Legarda also backed Romualdez’s nomination. She said Romualdez was her first boss, and that she worked as an account executive under him when she was a fresh college graduate.

“Babe is a person who can deal and has great rapport with persons [from] all walks of life,” said Legarda of Romualdez whom she said was a friend for three decades.

Topics: Jose Manuel Romualdez , Ambassador to the United States , Commission on Appointments
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