New PHL ambassador arrives in D.C., writes of PHL-U.S. ties and friendship with Chuck Norris

‘My assumption as ambassador is timely.’  Philippine Embassy photo

‘My assumption as ambassador is timely.’ Philippine Embassy photo

After a long wait, the Philippines’s new ambassador to the U.S. was finally introduced to government officials, members of the diplomatic corps, and business community leaders at a reception held on December 7 at the Philippine Embassy’s Chancery Annex building.

Jose Manuel del Gallego Romualdez — known by his nickname Babe – is a journalist, publisher, and business executive. He writes a column called Spybits for the Philippine Star, and is president of the Manila Overseas Press Club. He is the publisher and CEO of Stargate/PeopleAsia magazine. He is known in the business community as vice president of the Rotary Club of Manila and chairman of several American multinational companies, such as Weber Shandwick Philippines and FCB Manila.

“My assumption as ambassador is timely as President Trump just completed his first trip to Asia, which culminated in the Philippines,” said Romualdez in his remarks. “The Philippines and the region are pleased with the reassuring commitment of President Trump and the U.S. to Asia and ASEAN. The Philippines is also very pleased with the positive meeting between our two Presidents.”

Romualdez is a nephew of former First Lady Imelda Marcos, according to the Philippine Star.

“The rapport between President Duterte and President Trump was evident and that rapport, together with the joint statement both our sides issued, reaffirms and strengthens the foundation for Philippines-U.S. relations to develop further. Certainly, it provides me the guidance as I set out to engage all of the embassy’s stakeholders,” he said in a statement issued by the Philippine Embassy.

Romualdez was appointed envoy to the U.S. by President Rodrigo Duterte in July. He presented his letter of credence to President Trump on November 29 at the White House, formally completing his accreditation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of the Philippines to the U.S.

Among the esteemed guests at the reception were Ambassador Nathan Alexander Sales; Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Joseph Felter III; Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA); and Representative Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam).

Among the esteemed guests at the reception were Ambassador Nathan Alexander Sales; Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Joseph Felter III; Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA); and Representative Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam).

“I intend to secure a deeper partnership with the U.S. that injects dynamism in our economic, security, and people-to-people relationships. This deeper partnership I speak of is more than aspirational. I will ensure that the relationship evolves into one that is more pro-active and responsive to our common interests and concerns,” Romualdez told the dignitaries and guests at his welcome reception.

In one of his columns for the Star, he said the two countries have long been in “close coordination” over the issue of illegal drugs, an effort that began even before 9/11. Illustrating this closeness through personal anecdote, he shared how he was once stopped by Customs authorities when he arrived in San Francisco for a visit.

“So when I arrived at the San Francisco airport — one of the few times when I was wearing denim jeans, I had not shaved and was still bleary eyed having just woke up from a long 13-hour flight so I must have looked shabby — U.S. Customs authorities stopped me and put my passport in a yellow folder, which meant that I would be subjected to a secondary inspection,” he wrote. He was led to a holding area, his luggage thoroughly searched.

The investigation turned up a photo of Romualdez with martial arts actor Chuck Norris and former vice President Salvador ‘Doy’ Laurel. The photo was taken at a 1989 dinner Laurel hosted for the actor who was then promoting his movie shot in the Philippines.

He was questioned if he knew Chuck Norris. He replied, “Yes, Chuck and I are friends.” The Customs agent, apparently a fan of Norris, became friendlier and let him go, explaining the random checks were necessary to tighten U.S. border security against drug traffickers. Romualdez thought how Chuck Norris “saved the day for me.”

As ambassador to Washington D.C., Romualdez will 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. – Cristina DC Pastor

© The FilAm 2017

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