US vows freedom of navigation, freedom from fear, coercion
Speaking at a reception onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the waters of Manila Bay on Friday, US Ambassador Sung Kim said the US will continue to ensure “freedom of navigation, freedom of commerce and freedom from fear and coercion.”
KJ Rosales/File
US vows freedom of navigation, freedom from fear, coercion
Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) - April 15, 2018 - 12:01am

MANILA, Philippines — Through the presence and more frequent visits of powerful aircraft carriers in in the Philippines and other parts of the South China Sea, the US is sending a loud and clear message that America’s military forces are ready to defend and protect its allies in the Indo-Pacific region.

Speaking at a reception onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the waters of Manila Bay on Friday, US Ambassador Sung Kim said the US will continue to ensure “freedom of navigation, freedom of commerce and freedom from fear and coercion.”

Kim said the aircraft carrier, carrying a handful of F-18 Hornet fighter jets, helicopters and some 5,000 sailors and marines, is named after the 26th president of the United States.

Roosevelt, a soldier, a visionary president and a Nobel Prize winner, is famous for the saying “Speak softly but carry a big stick.” Hence the carrier is nicknamed “the Big Stick.”

“But I might take exception to the first part of the Teddy Roosevelt saying about speaking softly. I think there are times when we should speak loudly and clearly,” Kim told an audience of that included Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Presidential Political Adviser Francis Tolentino, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, Philippine Navy Flag Officer in Command Rear Admiral Robert Empedrad, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, Pangasinan Rep. Leopoldo Bataoil and business leaders Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, Tessie Sy-Coson, Ricky Razon, Alfred Ty.

“The presence of the Theodore Roosevelt here in Manila Bay sends a very clear message to everyone in the region, especially to our friends in the Philippines, because our commitment to the US-Philippines alliance is unbreakable and will remain so indefinitely,” Kim said.

“Our friendship has never been stronger and we have been and remain an Indo-Pacific nation. And our commitment to this region and its well-being is enduring,” he said.

Kim said the US clearly showed its commitment to the alliance with the Philippines when it came to the assistance of the brave men and women of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as they defeated the terrorists in Marawi City last year.

He said the US also shows its clear commitment when it welcomes every year tens of thousands of Filipinos to the US, to study, to visit loved ones – and sometimes to shop.

“Our commitment is also clear on the number of US companies investing in Philippines’ thriving economy, providing jobs to talented Filipino workers and also when we welcome Filipino products to US markets,” he added.

The USS Theodore Roosevelt is a fourth Nimitz-class aircraft carrier launched in 1984. She saw her first action during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 that is now under the command of Rear Admiral Stephen Koehler of Carrier Strike Group 9 whose crew include some 400 Filipino-Americans.

“At well over a thousand feet long and weighing in at well over a hundred thousand tons, sticks don’t come any bigger than the Theodore Roosevelt,” he said.

Kim said the timing of Roosevelt’s visit to Manila is fitting as the Philippines observed the Day of Valor or Araw ng Kagitingan just a few days ago. 

Kim said such day is a somber reminder of what the US and the Philippines have endured troughout history. 

“Yet we emerge from these trials stronger, both as individual nations and as friends, partners and allies. The Day of Valor invites us to remember and honor the past. But the presence of this amazing carrier in Manila Bay reassures us that together we can have a secure and prosperous future,” Kim said.

Kim later told reporters that the visit of the USS Theodore Roosevelt to the country is “a clear sign, clear reflection, clear demonstration of our commitment to the Indo-Pacific Region, commitment to the US-Philippines alliance and also our commitment to promoting and protecting important values, principles and rights like freedom of navigation, freedom of flight and freedom of commerce.”

Asked about recent reports that China has put up jamming devices in disputed islands of the West Philippine Sea, Admiral Kohler said the aircraft carrier along with other navies sail through the region regularly.

“We like to promote and ensure that those freedoms and those commons are open to everybody. And so that’s what we’ve done here and that’s what we’ll continue to do here in the region and sail professionally and safely like all other navies that we’ve run into,” he said.

Kim, responding to the same issue, said when US President Donald Trump visited the region in November last year, he made it very clear that one of the central themes of his policy and approach to the Indo-Pacific region was to make sure to secure and promote an open and free region. 

“And I think what the Admiral and his team are doing in the region is just that – to promote freedom, fairness, and openness,” he said.

Kohler said the presence and sailing of the USS Theodore “is an indication that we’re here to support all of our friends and allies here in the region.”

FREEDOM OF NAVIGATION SOUTH CHINA SEA
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