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Opinion

Amb. Babe on rumblings, sleepless nights and Ricky Razon

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

Our Philippine Ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Jose “Babe” Romualdez, who is in the country now, makes every minute count.

One might think that he comes home to Manila just to take a much needed break but on the contrary, Amb. Babe, quite the indefatigable diplomat, has his schedule packed with meetings – big and small – when he is in the country. This is all with the aim of helping us get through what he described as the biggest threat we are facing since World War II.

Thus, on last week’s hump day, Amb. Babe gathered members of the Consular Corps of the Philippines and said that the unprecedented “aggression” and “bullying” from China loom large like dark clouds over Manila and are today’s biggest threats against the Philippines.

He doesn’t see the end of the tunnel just yet, saying the aggression is very real.

“It’s something that all of us, all Filipinos, should be made aware of, and how important it is that we are united in facing this very big challenge to our country, “he told the crowd.

The threat, indeed, is real and Amb. Babe said it could affect the country’s economic ties with China.

“There are rumblings going around now. As you know, we have a lot of exports to China, but all those exports can be at peril because occasionally, we hear negative things. We’re hoping that our neighbor in the north will see the value of continuing our economic activity while trying to peacefully resolve the issues surrounding our territorial waters. We all know that there are challenging times that we face, on many fronts, as I said.”

Sleepless in Malacanang

The skirmishes, Amb. Babe said, keep President Marcos awake at night.

There were times, he said, when he would get a call from his cousin in the wee hours, say around 2 a.m. Manila time, about the tensions between Manila and Beijing.

“We want to avoid having to find a situation where we will have to call each other and say, we want to invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty (with the US) – ‘you have to defend us because the Chinese are already in our shores’.”

“We hope that will never happen. And believe me, that keeps a lot of us awake at night,” Amb. Babe said.

“Because there were times when I would get a call from our President at 2 in the morning. And I know he’s not partying, because he sleeps very early now every day. And at 2 o’clock in the morning he would call and tell me, ‘you’ve got to find out if this thing happened’ and so forth and so on. So, it’s really something that we really have to be concerned about.”

Enrique Razon

Thus, addressing the crowd of Filipino consuls, Amb. Babe said they must do their part in doing what is good for the country to help resolve this problem.

“Remember, you are a Filipino first, and you’re an honorary consul of whatever country you represent. But you must do your part in doing good for the country by telling your host country or whoever you represent that they must support us in this endeavor, (in) the challenges that we’re facing,” Amb. Babe said.

Heeding the lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, he said, the world has now turned into a situation where, if we do not help each other, it can spell the end of the world.

Speaking of the COVID-19 pandemic, Amb. Babe also took the opportunity to give due credit to ports and casino tycoon Enrique Razon for his help during that difficult pandemic period in the country.

“As I said, the COVID-19 was really challenging and it was an example of where we really needed to work double time because there were so many countries who wanted the vaccines. But I want to mention one particular person that I really have the greatest admiration for.

“Many of you know of him or know him, but he was one of those that stepped up to the plate. One of the wealthiest men in the Philippines today is Enrique Razon. As you know, we had difficulty in putting a down payment (for) the vaccines, but Enrique Razon, when I called him, I desperately said that we needed to put something down the line if we were to get any of these vaccines to our country.”

And Razon replied: “Sagot ko na yan!” And the tycoon did.

“He put up his money, and that’s the reason why we had the vaccines coming into our country,” Amb. Babe said.

This, he said, signaled great hope for our people back then because it sent a message that we were going to be at least safe from the scourge of COVID-19.

These are examples of people that can really do good for the country, Amb. Babe said.

Diplomacy

Going back to the topic of China’s aggression, Amb. Babe said that at the end of the day, diplomacy is still the best option to pursue, rather than engage in any conflict.

“And so the work that you do as honorary consuls and diplomats – that is a major factor in bringing about a cohesive, clean way of avoiding a major conflict,” he said.

He is correct in saying this and it reminds me of a quote from the Netflix series, The Diplomat.

“Diplomacy never works until it does.”

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Email: [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzalesColumn archives at EyesWideOpen on FB.

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