Ambassador Chito Sta. Romana, 74

Pia Lee Brago - The Philippine Star
Ambassador Chito Sta. Romana, 74
Sta. Romana
STAR / File

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

The DFA did not mention the cause of the ambassador’s death.

“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.”

Malacañang also expressed sadness over Sta. Romana’s death.

“We are saddened by the passing of Philippine Ambassador to China… We pay tribute to Ambassador Sta. Romana for his efforts in strengthening the Philippines-China relations. Our thoughts and prayers to the Sta. Romana family,” acting presidential spokesman Martin Andanar said.

The Philippine embassy in Beijing is coordinating with Chinese authorities for the immediate repatriation of Sta. Romana’s remains.

President Duterte appointed Sta. Romana, a veteran journalist who lived and worked in Beijing for decades, as ambassador to China in recognition of his deep knowledge of China’s history and people.

“Under his distinguished tenure, Philippine-China relations flourished despite differences; indeed they flowered all the more in maturity and were deeply strengthened. We honor his important legacy of selfless service to the Filipino in the most challenging foreign post,” the DFA said.

He was Beijing bureau chief for ABC News, the news division of the American Broadcasting Company. He covered China as a producer and reporter for ABC News from 1989 until his retirement in November 2010, reporting on major stories such as the Tiananmen protests and crackdown in 1989, the crisis in US-China relations in 1999 and 2001, the economic rise of China and the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

He and his news team won an Emmy award in the News and Documentary category in 2000 and earned two other Emmy nominations in 2001 and 2006.

During his college years, Sta. Romana was elected president of the De La Salle University student council and head of the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) Manila region. He was also active in protest demonstrations against the Marcos regime in 1970, which later became known as the First Quarter Storm.

‘Old friend, good friend’

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said it was saddened by the passing of Sta. Romana due to an undisclosed illness.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Sta. Romana was well known for his profound knowledge of China, where he worked and lived for many years and “was our old friend and good friend.”

After assuming the post of ambassador in 2017, he said Sta. Romana immediately worked actively and industriously, making important contributions to promoting bilateral relations and friendship.

“We are deeply grieved by the loss of a good friend and extend our heartfelt condolences to his loved ones,” Wang said.

Teresita Ang See, peace and order advocate and founding president of the Kaisa Heritage Center, also expressed grief over Sta. Romana’s death.

“We mourn our country’s irreparable loss in the sudden demise of Amb. Chito Sta. Romana. He was a personal friend and a colleague,” Ang See said.

She said the late ambassador helped her “considerably in navigating the churning waters of Philippines-China relations,” especially when she led a group of experts in engaging Chinese think tanks in Beijing and Shanghai, on contentious issues surrounding the South China Sea conflict in April 2013.

“We engaged academics, policy and opinion makers in productive dialogues to make them understand better about the Philippines’ claims and stand on the disputed waters,” she said.

“The briefing papers we provided to China as well as the summary of our five-day engagements to bridge the Philippines’ and China’s dreams were compiled into a book, Philippines China Relations – Sailing Beyond Disputed Waters edited by myself and Ambassador Chito Sta. Romana,” she pointed out.

Sta. Romana, she added, was one of the key persons behind the Philippine Association for Chinese Studies when it was organized in 1987 to enhance understanding and disseminate knowledge about China and its people. He was president of the organization in 2014 until 2016. – Helen Flores


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