FOLLOWING President President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement that he is not yet keen on sending an envoy to the United States, two former Philippine foreign affairs executives are urging the president to appoint one.
In a statement on Friday, February 3, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said that not designating a Philippine ambassador to the U.S. would most likely send a “very disturbing message” on the status of relations between the two countries.
“This, I believe, is a matter which should be urgently revisited,” del Rosario said.
He then added, “Our Department of Foreign Affairs may wish to respectfully advise our President that such a declared preference not to send an ambassador may be viewed as a very disturbing message in relations between states.”
Earlier this week, Duterte expressed that he doesn’t ‘feel like’ sending an envoy to the U.S. yet.
“Iyung USA, wala tayong ambassador. Walang ambassador na papunta doon. Hanggang wala tayong ambassador sa States, I don’t feel like sending one (We don’t have an ambassador to the U.S. No ambassador is going there. As long as we don’t have an ambassador to the States, I don’t feel like sending one),” Duterte said on Thursday, February 2, during a speech in Davao City.
Duterte previously asked Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez to replace Jose Cuisia Jr. as the new Philippine ambassador to the U.S.
Romualdez, however, reportedly declined due to health reasons.
Meanwhile, former Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Lauro Baja warned that the Philippines might lose big opportunities if Duterte continues to leave the ambassador position open.
“A regular ambassador can open doors much more easily and much more reliably than not having one. And somehow, it doesn’t project a good diplomatic practice of not sending a regular ambassador to an important post like Washington,” Baja told ANC.
Baja explained that Manila’s representation in Washington will only be on a “second-tier level” if the Philippines continues to leave its diplomatic concerns in the hands of a chargé d’affaires or a diplomat.
“A chargé d’affaires can only have lower access to the echelon of government and lower level of contact with interest groups there,” Baja explained.
For seven months, the ambassador to the U.S. position has been vacant. The Philippine embassy in Washington is presently headed by charge d’affaires Patrick Chuasoto, a career diplomat.
Baja then took note that there is no reason for the Philippines to not send an envoy unless the “the President wants to send another message to the United States.”
Duterte had been not on good terms with the United States under former President Barack Obama for the latter’s alleged ‘hypocrisy’ and criticisms on his intensified campaign against illegal drugs.
Some analysts, on the other hand, expect a warmer Manila-Washington relations under the administration of new U.S. President Donald Trump.
“The president did not say why he is not keen on sending a Philippine representative to Washington. I don’t think it’s a policy yet,” Baja said. “I would urge the President to appoint as soon as possible for an ambassador there. We have a good supply of prospects who the president could tap.”