By the Philippine News Agency
With outgoing United States Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim having a “very good rapport” with the Duterte administration, the Office of the President had initially sought for his extension as Washington’s representative to Manila, a ranking official said Tuesday.
“Ambassador Kim, no doubt about it, he has a very good rapport with President (Rodrigo) Duterte and with all our Cabinet,” Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez said.
“He really was sincerely liked, in fact, Secretary (Salvador) Medialdea asked me, I think sometime mid-June, he was telling me, ‘Baka puwede natin pa-extend (Maybe we can ask for him to extend), I said we’ll find out’,” he said.
Romualdez relayed the request to the State Department which said it cannot guarantee the appeal would be granted.
“I called up the State Department, they said, ‘We’ll see but that would be difficult,’ until ‘yon na nga, they had no choice but wala na e, na-nominate na (he’s been nominated),” he said.
On July 11, the White House finally announced that Kim was nominated as the next US Ambassador to Jakarta.
“It would be very hard to withdraw… Of course, we can always say we don’t accept (anyone) except Kim, because Japan did that before with Mike Mansfield, he was ambassador to Japan for nine years, anyone they asked to replace, Japan turned down because they like Ambassador Mansfield, but you know that’s something that we won’t do of course,” Romualdez said.
The envoy said Kim is expected to leave Manila by end of October 2019 or the early part of November.
As to who will be the next US Ambassador to the Philippines, Romualdez said “we’ll know within the next two months.”
“There are career diplomats… and President (Donald) Trump likes to appoint sometimes supporters, political appointees, so let’s see,” he said.
News circulated on social media that Mina Chang would replace Kim.
Romualdez said the speculation sparked and “spread like a wildfire” when people found out Chang would visit Manila for the 8th Bilateral Strategic Dialogue as the deputy assistant secretary at the State Department Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations.
“She was supposed to come here for the Bilateral Strategic Dialogue and then when people found out she was coming, they said she should be the ambassador, then it spread like wildfire,” he said.
“Actually, the Americans were so shocked with what happened in social media here, even Ms. Mina Chang herself was so shocked. I said ‘You’re an instant star in the Philippines. That’s why they canceled her coming here because it will distract from the BSD, it will be about Mina Chang,” he added.