Chito Sta. Romana, Philippine envoy to China, passes away

Raffy Cabristante, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 19 2022 10:49 AM | Updated as of Apr 19 2022 04:17 PM

Official photo of Amb. Jose Sta. Romana from DFA-Beijing
Official photo of Amb. Jose Sta. Romana from DFA-Beijing

MANILA (3rd UPDATE) — Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago “Chito” Sta. Romana has passed away, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday. He was 74.

Sta. Romana died on Monday, April 18, in Huangsha of eastern China's Anhui province, his sister Neni said, noting that he had been under required quarantine before returning to Beijing.

He had accompanied Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., who visited China two weeks ago for a dialogue with Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

“It is with the inconsolable grief of the Secretary and the profoundest sadness that the Department of Foreign Affairs announces the demise of Philippine Ambassador to China, His Excellency Jose Santiago “Chito” Sta. Romana,” the DFA said in a statement.

“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,” it added.

The department did not disclose the cause of Sta. Romana’s death.

Malacañang mourned the envoy's passing. 

In a press briefing, acting Palace spokesperson Martin Andanar hailed Sta. Romana's efforts in strengthening Philippine-China relations. 

"Nagbibigay pugay kami kay Ambassador Sta. Romana sa kaniyang mga nagawa para tumibay ang Philippine-China relations. Our thoughts and prayers to the Sta. Romana family," said Andanar. 

(We honor Amb. Sta. Romana for all he did to strengthen the country's relations with China.)

The Philippine Embassy in Beijing is now coordinating with the Chinese government for the return of the envoy’s remains to the Philippines.

Sta. Romana was appointed as the country’s ambassador to China on December 7, 2016, in recognition of his “deep knowledge of China’s history and people”, the DFA said.

He was a former journalist who served as the Beijing bureau chief of American Broadcasting Company (ABC) News. He lived and worked in China from 1989 until his retirement in 2010. 

 

The DFA recognized Sta. Romana's role in the “flourishing” of Philippine-China relations under the Duterte administration “despite differences,” including the maritime dispute in the West Philippine Sea.

It acknowledged his “selfless service” in what it described as the Philippine diplomacy’s “most challenging foreign post.”

'BUILDING A BRIDGE OF FRIENDSHIP'

A few days before he died, the envoy looked back at his diplomatic assignment.

"Looking back, it was a rare privilege to serve as the Philippine Ambassador to China and contribute to the turnaround and significant improvement in our bilateral relations," Sta. Romana said on Good Friday, April 15.

"There have been numerous milestones and achievements during the course of my diplomatic assignment. But if there is one thing I am proud of, it is this: to have played a frontline role in building a bridge of friendship and cooperation between the Filipino and Chinese people that transcended any differences and contributed to regional stability and prosperity," he added.

The Department of Health, in a press briefing, remembered the diplomat's contribution to securing supply for the country's first COVID-19 vaccine, Sinovac.

"Hindi po malilimutan ang pumanaw na ambassador dahil ginampanan niya po and kaniyang tungkulin at nakatulong po nang husto sa pagiging tulay sa ugnayan ng Pilipinas at Tsina," Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergere told reporters.

(The ambassador will not be forgotten for fulfilling his responsibilities and helping in the relations of the Philippines and China.)

"Lalo na po sa ginampanang negosasyon at saka pag-procure at pag-aayos ng donasyon ng mga bakuna dito sa ating bansa."

(Especially in negotiations, procurement, and donation processes of COVID-19 vaccines to the country.)

Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje, head of the National Vaccination Operations Center, also remembered Sta. Romana.

"One year ago, it was very difficult to find vaccines... We acknowledge the hard work of our ambassador. Kung 'di tayo nakapagbakuna at the start, we could not have protected many of our health workers at the start," she said in a televised press briefing.

(If we were unable to begin vaccination, we could not have protected many of our health workers at the start.)

FROM THE ARCHIVES

Watch more News on iWantTFC

Shortly before he passed, Sta. Romana was being interviewed by his long-time friend Mercy Corrales, who is one of the authors of a book being written by his colleagues in the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) from 1969 to 1972. 

REACTIONS FROM CHINESE OFFICIALS

Chinese officials also expressed grief and sadness over Sta. Romana's passing.

China's foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin described the envoy as "our old friend and good friend."

"He worked actively and industriously, making important contributions to promoting bilateral relations and friendship between our two peoples. We are deeply grieved by the loss of a good friend and extend our heartfelt condolences to his loved ones," Wang said.

"We will work together with his family and the Philippine Embassy in China to properly handle follow-up matters and provide every convenience possible," he added.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian remembered Sta. Romana's "undeniable contribution to the development of China-Philippines relations."

"China-Philippine relations have been strengthened and indeed flourished under his distinguished tenure as the Philippine Ambassador to China," Huang said in a Facebook post.

LIFE AS A JOURNALIST

As a journalist, Sta. Romana reported on some of China’s major events, such as the 1989 Tiananmen protests, the conflict between the United States and China over the Hainan plane incident in 2001, the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and the Beijing meeting of former US President Barack Obama and former Chinese President Hu Jintao in 2009.

Born in Manila in January 1948, he spent his college years at the De La Salle University as a student leader and activist; among his contemporaries was Atenean activist Edgar “Edjop” Jopson.

Due to the political climate brought by the Martial Law years, he was forced to stay in exile in China from 1971 to 1986.

- with reports from Job Manahan and Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News
 

FROM THE ARCHIVES

Watch more News on iWantTFC

Shortly before he passed, Sta. Romana was being interviewed by his long-time friend Mercy Corrales, who is one of the authors of a book being written by his colleagues in the College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) from 1969 to 1972. 

REACTIONS FROM CHINESE OFFICIALS

Chinese officials also expressed grief and sadness over Sta. Romana's passing.

China's foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin described the envoy as "our old friend and good friend."

"He worked actively and industriously, making important contributions to promoting bilateral relations and friendship between our two peoples. We are deeply grieved by the loss of a good friend and extend our heartfelt condolences to his loved ones," Wang said.

"We will work together with his family and the Philippine Embassy in China to properly handle follow-up matters and provide every convenience possible," he added.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian remembered Sta. Romana's "undeniable contribution to the development of China-Philippines relations."

"China-Philippine relations have been strengthened and indeed flourished under his distinguished tenure as the Philippine Ambassador to China," Huang said in a Facebook post.

LIFE AS A JOURNALIST

As a journalist, Sta. Romana reported on some of China’s major events, such as the 1989 Tiananmen protests, the conflict between the United States and China over the Hainan plane incident in 2001, the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and the Beijing meeting of former US President Barack Obama and former Chinese President Hu Jintao in 2009.

Born in Manila in January 1948, he spent his college years at the De La Salle University as a student leader and activist; among his contemporaries was Atenean activist Edgar “Edjop” Jopson.

Due to the political climate brought by the Martial Law years, he was forced to stay in exile in China from 1971 to 1986.

FROM THE ARCHIVES:

Watch more News on iWantTFC