Kerry congratulates Philippines on anniversary of independence

Pia Lee-Brago - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - US Secretary of State John Kerry congratulated yesterday the Philippines on the eve of its 118th Independence celebration, calling the country’s president a strong ally and faithful friend of the United States.

“On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I want to congratulate the people of the Philippines as you celebrate the anniversary of your nation’s independence this June 12,” Kerry said in a statement.

The secretary thanked President Aquino, who will step down from office when his term ends on June 30. He also added that the US is looking forward to another era of strong cooperation with the Philippines under the administration of incoming President Rodrigo Duterte.

“I thank President Aquino for being a strong ally and a faithful friend for the United States over the last six years,” he added.

Under the Aquino administration, the Philippines and the US signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) on April 28, 2014, shortly before President Barack Obama arrived for a state visit to the Philippines.

The Supreme Court upheld last January the constitutionality of the EDCA, which involves stationing American troops, planes, and ships in the country on a rotating basis. The defense pact is seen as the Philippines’ deterrent to China’s stepped-up unilateral actions in the South China Sea.

“As our two nations continue our work to strengthen regional peace and security, combat climate change, stamp out terrorism, and fight transnational crime, we look forward to the leadership of president-elect Duterte and another era of strong cooperation,” Kerry said.

US Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken also reaffirmed the critical role of the two countries’ alliance in America’s rebalance to Asia and his government’s support for the Philippine position on the South China Sea.

“Today we celebrate not only 118 years of independence but seven extraordinary decades of partnership that have enriched every facet of our societal foundations,” Blinken said.

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