CA approves new PH ambassador to China

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 07 2022 08:43 PM | Updated as of Dec 07 2022 09:11 PM

Photograph by Romeo Peralta Jr./File
Former bureau chief of CNN and Time Magazine in Beijing Jaime FlorCruz was confirmed on Dec. 7, 2022 by the Commission on Appointments as the Philippines' new ambassador to China. Photograph by Romeo Peralta Jr./File

CA confirms appointment of 12 other envoys 

MANILA - The Commission on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday confirmed the nomination of Jaime Florcruz, a veteran journalist who spent decades in Beijing, as the Philippines' new ambassador to China.

Florcruz, 71, who was appointed by President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. on Oct. 19, hurdled the CA committee on foreign affairs headed by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, and then later by the entire commission.

"I believe that we should continue our engagement with China, we should pursue the independent... policy that President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. elaborated, saying that in the community of countries, (we) should remain, continue to be friends for all and enemy of none," he said during the committee hearing.

His confirmation comes weeks before Marcos is scheduled to visit China even as Manila recently sent Beijing a note verbale over the reported seizure by Chinese coast guard personnel of its country's rocket debris Filipino troops had retrieved in the disputed South China Sea.

China's assertive posture in the South China Sea has been the source of tensions between the Asian superpower and some of the other claimants there such as the Philippines.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri told Florcruz during the committee hearing that his new job is "one of the very sensitive positions" because "we are having daily intrusions by our big neighbor... in our particular area of the West Philippine Sea", which forms part of the South China Sea.

Asked by Sen. Francis Tolentino how he, as ambassador, could help reduce the tensions in the South China Sea and improve the relations of the Philippines and China, Florcruz told the CA committee: "I believe foreign policy begins at home. We, I think, need to be united - the executive, legislative, Supreme Court. We should be united as a nation."

"I believe that our foreign policy should be based on strength. Which means that we should ensure that our armed forces, especially our coast guards, our navy are well funded, well-trained. Because I believe that's the best way to assert our sovereign rights, our territorial rights," he added.

"Of course, it's easier said than done. But I believe that unity, national unity should be the predicate of our foreign policy."

Tolentino said he wishes that Florcruz can advance the plight of Filipino fisherfolk and sentiments of Filipinos regarding the West Philippine Sea.

"It has to be expressed over and over again - Pilipinas 'po yan, Hindi po pag-aari ng People's Republic of China. And I hope you will do that. Express that daily. Put up a tarpaulin outside the premises of your embassy... 'Get out of the West Philippine Sea!' Kaya po ba yun? 'Get out of the West Philippine Sea' in Chinese characters," Tolentino told Florcruz.

"You're nodding your head. Meaning to say, you're going to do that?" he added.

"I will consider it, Sir," Florcruz replied.

Asked by Sen. Risa Hontiveros on how the Philippines should "traverse the emergence of China as a global superpower and a near-peer threat to the US and the rest of the West", Florcruz underscored the need for the country to make a delicate balance as it pursues an independent foreign policy.

"I know it's not easy, it's a delicate balance. I believe we are already beginning to do that and at the same time promoting or strengthening relations with the US. Our President is going to China for the same kind of reason which is balance our relations," he said.

"We are near China so there are many good reasons to make sure that we have good relations with our neighbor. It does not mean that we will abandon our arbitral ruling award. It does not mean we will sacrifice our sovereign and territorial rights. But we just have a good neighborly relations with China, the same way that we wish to have good relations with the United States," he added.

Florcruz, who is fluent in Mandarin Chinese, assumes the position vacated by his colleague and another veteran journalist, the late Amb. Jose Santiago "Chito" Sta. Romana.

Sta. Romana was recognized by the Department of Foreign Affairs for his role in the “flourishing” of Philippine-China relations under the Duterte administration “despite differences,” including the maritime dispute in the South China Sea.

Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire sea and has ignored an international court ruling that its claims have no legal basis. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims to parts of it.

Last month, the DFA said the Philippines has lodged 189 diplomatic protests against China so far in 2022 over the superpower's actions in the contested waters.

Hundreds of Chinese coast guard and maritime militia vessels prowl the waters, swarming reefs, harassing and attacking fishing and other boats, and interfering in oil and gas exploration as well as scientific research.

Marcos Jr., who took office in June, earlier insisted he would not let China trample on the Philippines' maritime rights. 

He said his planned visit to China on Jan. 3-6 could be an opportunity to find a way to avoid further incidents. 

Besides being the Philippine envoy to China, Florcruz will also serve as Manila's chief of mission to North Korea and Mongolia.

Florcruz was CNN’s Beijing bureau chief and correspondent until 2014, TIME Magazine’s Beijing bureau chief and correspondent (1982-2000) and Newsweek’s Beijing reporter (1981), according to his profile on the website of Peking University in China where he was a visiting professor.

He twice served concurrently as the China Chairman of the Fortune Global Forum, a meeting of global business and political leaders: in Beijing in 2005 and in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, in 2013. 

Florcruz was a "vocal anti-Marcos activist during his college days", his profile by Peking University read, which noted that he found himself stranded in China in 1971 "when then-President Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. suspended the writ of habeas corpus and rounded up hundreds of his opponents and critics. 

"Marcos declared martial law in 1972 and a year later, Florcruz's Philippine passport expired. He was a stateless citizen stranded in China for 12 years," his profile read.

Asked by Hontiveros to comment on what some might say as ironic that he accepted an appointment by the son of the late dictator despite having been in effect exiled by the latter, Florcruz said, "There are reasons for everything. I went to China... I love the Philippines, because I wanted to serve the Philippines. I stayed in China for the same reason. And I'm taking up this position, this nomination for the same reason, which is to serve the country."

"I am very privileged to be of public service. I've never served in a public position in the Philippines. And so I am very honored and privileged to take this up, again, to serve the country," he added.

Ex-DFA chief Locsin, daughter of ex-Pres. Arroyo among newly confirmed ambassadors

Meanwhile, the CA also confirmed the nomination of 12 other ambassadors, including the following:

  • former Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. as ambassador to the UK
  • Evangelina Lourdes Bernas, daughter for former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, as ambassador to Austria
  • Mylene Garcia-Albano, as non-resident ambassador to Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Marshall Islands, in addition to being ambassador to Japan

- with report from Robert Mano, ABS-CBN News

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