âUS remains trusted allyâ
Photo shows US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel talking to the press after a meeting with Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. at the Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday.
‘US remains trusted ally’
Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - October 25, 2016 - 12:00am

Rody statements creating ‘climate of uncertainty’

MANILA, Philippines - The United States remains a “steady and trusted” partner of the Philippines, but is concerned about recent controversial statements made by President Duterte.

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel made the comments to reporters in Manila yesterday after a meeting with Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr.

Russel is the most senior US diplomat for Asia.

Ambassador Philip Goldberg, for his part, said the ties between the US and the Philippines “are really unbreakable in many ways.”

Russel also said that while the US supports Manila’s “effort against the scourge of drugs,” Washington was concerned over the loss of lives, which is “not a positive trend” and is “bad for business as well.”

Goldberg attended yesterday the commissioning of the newly delivered C-130 cargo plane at the Philippine Air Force headquarters at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City. The Philippines acquired the aircraft from the US through the latter’s Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program.

“There are 3.5 million Filipino-Americans and there are a couple of hundred thousand Americans who live in the Philippines,” Goldberg said, explaining his country’s “unbreakable” bond with the Philippines.

He said that while certain developments appear to have undermined US-Philippine relations, there are factors that have kept such relationship from deteriorating.

He did not cite negative developments but he was apparently referring to Duterte’s repeated rants against the US and his declaration of military and economic “separation” from the Philippines’ long-time ally.

Duterte issued the controversial statement on at least two occasions during his state visit to Beijing last week. He had also bared intention to pivot to China and Russia. He would later clarify he was not cutting diplomatic ties with the US.

The US ambassador said Russel and US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Kelly Magsamen are in the country to seek clarification on the President’s statements.

“We’re seeking exact clarification. We have two US officials seeking clarification,” Goldberg said.

He stressed the US remains committed to its relations with the Philippines despite the confusion arising from the President’s pronouncements.

“We are trying to sort out exactly what that means in policy terms. What that means in terms of ongoing relationship. This is a sovereign country, and the US has treated the Philippines as co-equal,” Goldberg said.

Being a sovereign state, he said the Philippines should make its own decisions on what it believes is in the best interest of the country.

He stressed there’s nothing wrong with the Philippines’ taking steps to improve relations with other countries in the region.

US Ambassador Philip Goldberg pours champagne on a C-130T cargo plane during the formal turnover of the aircraft to the Philippine Air Force at Villamor Air Base yesterday. The plane is the second to be acquired through the US Excess Defense Articles program. AP

New C-130

Also at Villamor Air Base, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana thanked the US government for the delivery of the C-130 aircraft.

“We thank Ambassador Philip Goldberg for his continued generous help that enabled the Philippine government to acquire this aircraft for the Philippine Air Force,” he said.

Lorenzana also cited US Col. Ernest Lee, chief of JUSMAG-Philippines, for facilitating the transfer of the C-130 to the PAF’s inventory.

Japanese ships visit

Meanwhile, three warships of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Forces (JMSDF) docked yesterday at Manila’s South Harbor for a five-day goodwill visit.

“This is another gesture of fostering goodwill which contributes to the furtherance of friendship between the PN and JMSDF established through the years with continuing commitment to promoting naval diplomacy and camaraderie,” Navy spokesman Capt. Lued Lincuna said.

The warships were JS Kashima, JS Setoyukie and JS Asigiri manned by 190 sailors and officers.

Duterte’s declaration of “separation” from the US may have sparked worries, but for the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), “it is a historic and significant pronouncement.”

“If indeed the President is serious, he will formally transmit a letter to the US embassy notifying it of the termination of the VFA and EDCA,” Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said, referring to the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

“The Philippines should also demand indemnification from the US for the sufferings and wastes caused by its former military bases. Unequal economic pacts should also be ended and no negotiations for new free trade agreements should be pursued,” Reyes added.

The group, however, pointed out that revitalized relations with China or Russia must be based on national interest and must be free from lopsided provisions and unjust impositions.

“China must not require us to surrender our sovereignty and valid claims in the disputed areas. It must not impose its nine-dash line claim as a starting point in bilateral talks,” Bayan said.

While the Philippines has the right to assert independence from the US, Bayan stressed “we cannot simply jump from one imperialist lap to another. We are aware of the geopolitical interests of China and Russia vis-a-vis the US.”

He added “the goal of asserting sovereignty should be charting our own path for national development, achieving self-reliance and lessening dependence on external factors.”

“Any new relations must support genuine industrialization and not perpetuate our history of economic dependence. Foreign policy must serve domestic policy. It must serve the needs of the Filipino people,” Reyes said.

The same view was raised by the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya (Pamalakaya), which also challenged Duterte to “transform his anti-US pronouncements into concrete action.”

The group said this could be done by abrogating “existing unequal military treaties” like the VFA and EDCA.

In a statement, Pamalakaya lauded the President’s “consistencies in lambasting the US intervention in the country’s political and economic aspects.”

“We welcome President Duterte’s coherent pronouncements against the US. This will be a road towards pursuing a patriotic foreign policy that will develop domestic industries,” said Pamalakaya chair Fernando Hicap.

“We are not completely free from the US when military treaties like VFA and EDCA are still operational” and that there would be “no assurance that American forces will totally leave our country unless VFA and EDCA are revoked.”

He said Duterte has the backing of the Filipino people in his anti-US moves to “break our country from centuries-old colonial control.”

“We urge President Duterte to prepare the VFA and EDCA’s termination papers and sign it immediately. It can all be done even within 24 hours,” Hicap stressed. – Ding Cervantes, Rhodina Villanueva

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