Philippine Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez (left) and US Ambassador Sung Kim (right) face reporters during 8th Philippines-United States Bilateral Strategic Dialogue in Manila yesterday.
Edd Gumban
US to aid Philippines in ‘evidence-based’ drug war
Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) - July 17, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The United States remains committed to working with the Philippines on “evidence-based” approaches to reducing drug demand and sharing information to address the drug problem in ways that will respect human rights and the rule of law, the US State Department’s top diplomat for East Asia said yesterday.

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell said the Philippines and the US face the same challenge of illicit drug use.

“We remain committed to working together on evidence-based approaches to reducing drug demand by improving prevention, treatment and rehabilitation services,” Stilwell said in a statement on strategic priorities in the Philippines during the two-day Eighth US-Philippines Bilateral Strategic Dialogue (BSD) in Manila.

“I want to continue sharing information and best practices to jointly combat this common challenge in a manner that will respect human rights and the rule of law,” he said.

Last week, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said the US’s allies in Europe are “deadset” on insulting the Philippines in the United Nations, raising doubts over Western commitment to help defend the country’s sovereignty.

Locsin yesterday questioned Western commitment if it continues to insult the country’s human rights record and policies.

The UN Human Rights Council adopted on Thursday the Iceland-initiated resolution to investigate the “drug war” killings in the Philippines as the government rejected what it called a “tiny majority-approved and one-sided” resolution.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for policy Enrique Manalo and Defense Undersecretary Cesar Yano co-led the Philippine delegation to the BSD. Stilwell and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Randy Schriver co-led the US delegation.

The BSD is the principal forum for discussing the full range of political, security and economic cooperation between the Philippines and the US.

The Philippine and US delegations emphasized the importance of the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms.

‘Concretize amity into action’

In another development, Locsin yesterday asked Washington to “concretize” amity into action by selling M16 rifles to the Philippines, following President Duterte’s change of heart about not purchasing defense equipment from the US.

Locsin made the request to Stilwell yesterday, the second and last day of the BSD.

“I told him that to concretize words of US-Phl amity into action is to sell us what Pompeo was told we need and want to buy 74,000 brand new M16s – w/3 clips each. And Duterte will finish all security threats to our democracy. Not a gift; we will pay. We’re waiting,” Locsin said on Twitter.

Stilwell discussed strengthening the two countries’ economic relationship and promoting regional stability, including free and unobstructed access to the seas.

Last month, Duterte said he would reconsider purchasing weapons from the US, since he likes US President Donald Trump.

Earlier this year, Duterte said the Philippines would no longer procure weapons from its traditional ally after Washington threatened to impose sanctions on countries buying military equipment from Russia.

Both sides recognized the importance of a strong Philippines-US alliance in enhancing security cooperation and promoting regional stability and prosperity. They recalled State Secretary Michael Pompeo’s statements on the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty during his visit to Manila in March, particularly the clarification that the South China Sea is in the Pacific, and that any armed attack on the Armed Forces of the Philippines, public vessels or aircraft in the South China Sea will trigger Article IV of the Mutual Defense Treaty.

“Noting this, senior officials discussed a wide variety of issues of mutual interest and reaffirmed their commitment to deepening the alliance and expanding areas of cooperation,” the Philippines-United States Eighth Bilateral Strategic Review Joint Statement said.

The Philippines and the US pledged to enhance their already robust defense cooperation, including by improving defense infrastructure, updating personnel and logistics procedures and increasing mutual communication and coordination on operational elements of regional security. Both sides commit to begin planning on a range of activities to improve maritime domain awareness.

The Philippines and the US reaffirmed their commitment to uphold freedom of navigation, overflight and other lawful uses of the South China Sea and stressed the importance of peacefully resolving disputes in accordance with international law, as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention.

Both sides also emphasized the importance of concluding an effective and substantive Code of Conduct that would not prejudice the rights under international law of both claimant states and non-claimant states in the South China Sea.

The Philippine and US delegations emphasized the importance of the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms.

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