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Philippines, US affirm commitment to defense treaty, human rights

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte and United States President Donald Trump have reaffirmed their commitment to the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, which requires the Phiilippines and the US to come to the aid of each other in case of foreign invasion.

Their position was contained in a joint statement issued after the two leaders’ bilateral meeting on Monday during which they also underlined their commitment to uphold human rights and the dignity of life.

The meeting was held on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Meetings in Manila, which concluded yesterday. Their statement also took note of the MDT’s being reinforced by the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement or EDCA, which allows the rotational deployment of US troops in the Philippines and their use of local military bases.

In their joint statement,  Duterte and Trump also condemned North Korea for threatening regional stability with its nuclear weapons program. They called on Pyongyang to comply with UN Security Council Resolutions on nuclear disarmament.

“The two sides underscored that human rights and the dignity of human life are essential, and agreed to continue mainstreaming the human rights agenda in their national programs to promote the welfare of all sectors, including the most vulnerable groups,” the joint statement released by the White House read.

The release of the document followed Duterte’s and Trump’s bilateral meeting last Monday.

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Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said on Monday the issue of human rights was not discussed during the bilateral meeting. But White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said the issue was mentioned briefly.

The two leaders agreed human rights should always be part of national programs to promote the welfare of all sectors, especially the most vulnerable ones.

Trump also commended the Philippines for its compliance with relevant UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea.

The leaders urged ASEAN member-countries and other nations to voice their opposition to North Korea’s weapons program and take steps toward downgrading their diplomatic and economic engagement with Pyongyang.

The statement said the two leaders discussed during their meeting the ongoing campaign against criminality in the Philippines, especially the drug trade.

“Both sides acknowledged that illegal drug use is a problem afflicting both countries and committed to share best practices in the areas of prevention; enforcement, including capacity-building and transparency in investigations; and rehabilitation,” the statement read.

Both leaders also took note of their countries’ enduring alliance that they said was built on a strong foundation of shared values, sacrifices and history, and bolstered by common interests and people-to-people ties and full respect for legal and diplomatic processes.

The two leaders also pledged to expand cooperation while reaffirming their commitment to stronger bilateral alliance.

They said the partnership has stood the test of time and has immensely contributed to regional peace, stability and economic prosperity. ASEAN celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and the 40th year of its relations with the US.

Trump applauded the Philippines’ chairmanship of the ASEAN and expressed his condolences to the families and loved ones of soldiers and civilians killed in the siege of Marawi City by Islamic State-linked militants.

He also congratulated the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for its success in liberating Marawi. 

He vowed continued US support for the Philippines’ fight against terrorism as well as for the rehabilitation of Marawi. 

The joint statement also cited US efforts to help modernize the AFP, develop capacity and capability for maritime security and domain awareness, and provide rapid humanitarian assistance. – With Jess Diaz

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