Camilo Sanhueza considers his three decades in Foreign Service for Chile an immense privilege. After all, not everyone is given the opportunity to represent his country in multilateral affairs while learning so much from different cultures of nations around the world.
And so, 30 years into his career, Sanhueza continues to accept postings wholeheartedly, even taking on responsibilities beyond his duties for country.
Currently, Sanhueza is the Chargé d ’Affaires of the Embassy of Chile in the Philippines, and the newly elected dean of the Consular Corps of the Philippines.
In this one-on-one interview with The Sunday Times Magazine, the tireless diplomat looks back on his storied career, his task for Chile as the highest official of his embassy in the Philippines, and the little known but significant work of the consular corps in the country.
From Chile to the world
Sanhueza began his career in Foreign Service after passing an examination at the Chilean Diplomatic Academy “Andrés Bello,” which only takes in 10 to 15 applicants every year. He was then 25 years old and armed with a degree in History and Law, later acquiring dual Masters in Political Science and Philosophy.
A gifted student with a global view, he earned a scholarship after the Diplomatic Academy and attended Multilateral Diplomacy at the Institute on High International Studies in Geneva, Switzerland.
Upon completing further studies, he stayed on in Geneva to work at his first posting at the Chilean Mission to the United Nations, as well as other international organizations.
Fulfilling his tasks in Switzerland, he accepted a posting Brussels, after which he had a four-year homecoming in Santiago, Chile where he created the Division on Antarctic Affairs.
“I also spent time in Sydney, Australia as a Consul General, and years later saw myself in the Philippines in 2015 for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). I particularly participated with groups concerned with countering terrorism and preparing for natural disasters,” Sanhueza recalled.
Not many Filipinos know that Chile-Philippines relations date as far back as the 18th century. This was between 1844 and 1845 to be exact, when the Government of Chile opened three Honorary Consulates in Asia, one of them in Manila.
“We’ve always had healthy and cordial relations with the Philippines. Chile in fact has the longest diplomatic relations with an ASEAN country,” Sanhueza informed The Sunday Times Magazine.
“Chile and the Philippines of course share a Spanish background, historical landmarks, geography with maritime vocation, and you should know, we also share similar natural hazards and environmental vulnerabilities,” he enumerated.
Moreover, the diplomat highlighted efforts between the two countries in terms of commerce with the Joint Feasibility Study for a Trade Agreement, as well as similar issues in security and defense.
As such, given Chile and the Philippines’ extensive history and constant ties, Sanhueza described the responsibilities of his posting as Chargé d Affaires of the embassy as “different and unexpected.”
“When I came here, our President, Michelle Bachelet, was paying a state visit to the Philippines, which is considered the most important event for a diplomatic mission. At the same time, a round of Chilean Ambassadors posted in Asia-Pacific countries were coming to Manila because of the APEC Summit in 2015. I had the responsibility to lead the embassy staff to organize these events, and I can tell you, it was not a break at all from a regular day at work! But overall, my initiation here was indeed very interesting and rewarding, to be in charge of a bilateral embassy and to work so close with my Filipino colleagues.”
Two years into his post as Chargé d Affaires, Sanhueza vows to continue strengthening bilateral relations with the Philippines, which he believes is best done by allowing Filipinos to know more about Chileans and vice versa.
“It is through this that we can both highlight what is complementary between our countries, and thus look toward possibilities for improving trade,” he explained.
His embassy is also closely following the ASEAN presidency of the Philippines as the country plays host to the 50th anniversary of the regional organization.
“For the commemoration we are certain our participation will be highly appreciated in the multiple high level meetings that will take place in April, as well as exchanging views and experiences in the management of risk reduction and natural disasters, and again trade. We will be closely following the results of the exchanges afterward, particularly now that Chile has acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation of ASEAN (TAC), and has applied to the Asean Regional Forum (ARF),” Sanhueza elaborated.
As if his varied responsibilities for the Chilean Mission are not taxing enough, Sanhueza generously devotes a good amount of his time as the newly elected Dean of the Consular Corps of the Philippines.
While the public is generally aware of the kind of work different embassies do in the country—strengthening bilateral ties via trade and cultural exchanges, as well as humanitarian endeavors—Sanhueza is eager to make the purpose of the Consular Corps just as known to as many Filipinos as possible.
The devoted diplomat explained to The Sunday Times Magazine that the main objective of the entity is to mold “a closely knit, meaningful and dedicated group of representatives of foreign governments engaged in Consular and Foreign Service in the country.”
“The Corps meets monthly to exchange views and ideas for more cordial relationships and better understanding among our members from the different embassies and consulates, with the end view of improving the performance of their responsibilities in the host country–in this case the Philippines–and the countries they represent,” Sanhueza said as he went through the constitution and by-laws of the group.
“The Corps will also undertake to receive, assess and decide on possible ways and means by which it can assist its members, and will also initiate social projects, activities of general interest, and charitable and welfare projects,” he added.
According to Sanhueza, “all members of the Foreign Service holding diplomatic or consular rank and representing foreign governments, and all members whose rank is below that of the Chief of Mission must be duly accredited by the Government of the Philippines as member of the Consular Corps.”
To fulfill its objectives, the Consular Corps has an Executive Board whose members are nominated by the body and subsequently appointed by the Dean. The Dean is elected just as Sanhueza was for 2017.
“The board consist of no less than seven members, in addition to the Dean and Vice-Dean, and shall strive to maintain a balance between the career and honorary members of the Corps,” Sanhueza continued.
Currently sitting in the Executive Board along with Chile’s Chargé d ‘Affaires are Michael Ang as Vice Dean of the Jordan Consulate; Sergio Ortiza Luis Jr. of Romania Consulate as Treasurer; Consul William Co of Namibia as Assistant Treasurer; Betty Ang of Tanzinia as Auditor; and Perry Pe of Denmark as Legal Counsel.
Proud of the work of the Consular Corps of the Philippines, Sanhueza related that in the last decade, prior to his posting in the country, the group had stepped up in providing help to organizations and individuals across the country affected by natural disasters. Specifically, they have supported projects of the Philippine National Red Cross for Typhoon Ondoy: the International Red Cross during Typhoon Pedring; as well as efforts to construction new homes for the victims of Typhoon Sendong in Cagayan de Oro, among others.
“More recently, the Corps also spearheaded mangroves reforestation in Calatagan in Batangas, which also involved the education of the local communities to teach them why and how the mangroves can better sustain their families in the long term. The result is that the local people learn how protect them as well as earn from mounting tours of the area,” Dean Sanhueza shared.
“We also had Forum on the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, which was instrumental in involving not only politicians and government officials, but effectively engaged the youth as well as educators, thereby allowing them to understand how signing this instrument affects them. The Philippines of course became a signatory to the Hague Convention,” he continued.
For the duration of his tenure as Dean this year, Sanhueza vows to be more inclusive and integrate the biggest possible number of honorary and career consuls to various committees.
“I am working to create a more geographical balance in for more rotations among the countries’ representations to take place. Among the highlights of this direction are the monthly luncheons, in which a relevant speaker is invited to join us. I have also spoken to Secretaries Martin Andanar [Palace Communications], Ernesto Abella [Presidential Spokesperson] and Delfin Lorenzana [Defense] for them to participate. They had expressed their best disposition to do so. And then every year, at the beginning of December, the Consular Ball takes place. This 2017 we will be hosting the 42nd ball,” he outlined.
Meanwhile, with his tour of duty to the Philippines also coming to an end in 2018, Sanhueza told The Sunday Times Magazine that he will always remember the Philippines as a rich learning place both on a personal and a professional level.
“My youngest daughter was born here,” he smiled. “And the Philippines has given me the opportunity to enjoy her much more than if I was in a multilateral mission,” he said gratefully.
“I have also come to love the people–Filipinos are nice and gentle. You have self-respect and are clear about your rights,” Sanhueza noted.
“In summary, the Philippines has been a very rewarding posting for me–with my daughter, my work for the Consular Corps, as well as the embassy,” he continued. “Moreover, I will bring with me my award as Peace Fellow of the Year by the International Peace Diplomacy Corps, Inc. in 2016; the privilege to be invited as honorary member of the Rotary Club of Manila, the first in Asia; and lately, to be invited as founding member of the Manila House.”
Indeed, with all the strong ties Chargé d ’Affaires Camilo Sanhueza has made in the country, there is no doubt that the Philippines’ friendship with Chile will always be a smooth sailing and rewarding one at that.