MANILA (UPDATE) - Malacañang on Thursday announced that Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez has been appointed as the country’s ambassador to the United States.
“We are confident that with Mr. Romualdez at the helm of the Philippine embassy [in] Washington, D.C., [this] will further strengthen Philippine-US relations and promote stronger cooperation between the two countries,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
Abella said aside from being the country’s ambassador to the US, Romualdez shall also have concurrent jurisdiction over the Commonwealth of Jamaica, Republic of Haiti, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, The Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and Grenadines and Saint Lucia.
In a statement, Romualdez said he was "honored" and "humbled" by his appointment.
"I'm happy and honored to serve the country. I am humbled by President [Rodrigo] Duterte's trust and confidence," he said.
US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim sent his congratulations to Romualdez on Twitter.
Duterte had earlier tapped Romualdez as the next Philippine Ambassador to the US, replacing Jose Cuisia Jr., whose tour of duty ended on June 2016.
Romualdez, however, had to decline his appointment because of an emergency operation to address his eye ailment.
Romualdez, publisher and CEO of Stargate/PeopleAsia, has since recovered. Prior to his formal nomination as the country’s ambassador the US, he held the position as special envoy to Washington.
The US has been the Philippines' strongest defense ally, but under firebrand Duterte, relations between the two sides have taken a turn.
Duterte’s anger towards the US was partly fueled by Washington’s criticism of his war on drugs, particularly during the time of former US President Barack Obama.
Tensions eased up with the election of the equally controversial Donald Trump as US President.
But Duterte has continued his tirades against the US, most recently demanding for America to return church bells that its soldiers took as "war booty" from Balangiga town in Samar during the Philippine American war in 1901.
Duterte has pursued a foreign policy shift away from the Philippines' long-standing US alliance, enhancing ties with America's rivals China and Russia.
Kim recently expressed optimism that the Philippines remains committed to the alliance.