PH not making ‘full pivot’ to China – envoy

Paterno Esmaquel II
PH not making ‘full pivot’ to China – envoy
'It's really seeking a place, a balanced relationship, between the US and China and Russia,' Ambassador-designate to China Chito Santa Romana tells Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Ambassador-designate to China Chito Santa Romana said the Philippines is not making a “full pivot” to China under President Rodrigo Duterte.

In a Facebook Live interview with Rappler editor at large Marites Vitug, Santa Romana said Manila instead is “tilting” toward Beijing.

“In the past, we had a very close and tight alignment with the US, and now we’re tilting toward China,” Santa Romana said on Tuesday, January 10.

“But it’s not really a full pivot to China,” Santa Romana clarified. “It’s really seeking a place, a balanced relationship, between the US and China and Russia, but the goal is to have good relations with all the major powers.”

“The logic is basically the same: You don’t put all your eggs in one basket. You try to diversify your risks. You diversify your interests,” the ambassador-designate said. 

Santa Romana made these remarks as Duterte seeks better ties with China and Russia while moving away from the US, the Philippines’ traditional partner and former colonizer. (READ: Russia warns ‘traditional’ PH partners: Don’t interfere)

In his interview with Rappler, Santa Romana also said the Philippines aims to address its dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) separately from the two countries’ economic relations.

“Economics will drive the relations, not the disputes,” he said.

Santa Romana’s nomination as ambassador to China was already confirmed by the Philippine Commission on Appointments in December 2016.

Santa Romana, the former Beijing bureau chief of ABC News, worked as a producer and reporter in China for two decades. An Emmy award-winning journalist, he too is one of the Philippines’ leading China experts. (READ: Avoid mistakes of past China deals, incoming PH envoy says)

In August 2016, Santa Romana also joined former president Fidel V. Ramos in “icebreaker” talks with Chinese representatives in Hong Kong, upon Duterte’s instructions. –

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at