US tells Marcos: Ask and we are here

Helen Flores - The Philippine Star
US tells Marcos: Ask and we are here
President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. met with US Ambassador to the Philippines Marykay Loss Carlson at the Palace today, February 13, 2024.
Facebook / Presidential Communications Office

MANILA, Philippines —  The United States is ready to assist the Philippines during times of need, US Ambassador MaryKay Carlson assured President Marcos on Tuesday, as the envoy highlighted how the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the two countries has helped the Philippines in the delivery of urgently needed aid.

Carlson paid a courtesy call on Marcos at Malacañang, where they talked about Washington’s provision of two C-130s of the Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) in the ongoing delivery of food packs and other supplies to residents affected by the flooding in Mindanao.

“Carlson told President Marcos that Washington is pleased to bring two C-130s from the INDOPACOM, although it is not the cheapest or the easiest way to deliver foreign assistance,” the Presidential Communications Office said in a statement.

“But when you ask and you need it, we are here,” Carlson told Marcos, referring to the teams from the US Agency for International Development, Joint US Military Assistance Group and INDOPACOM.

At the request of the Philippine government, US Marines of the Okinawa-based Third Marine Expeditionary Force assisted the USAID in providing humanitarian assistance in the ongoing disaster relief mission in Mindanao.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday announced that two US Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules aircraft would be used to help in the delivery of supplies to the victims of the landslide in Maco, Davao de Oro.

“The US Marines from the III Marine Expeditionary Force will assist with the ongoing disaster relief mission with troops from the Marine Air Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing delivering essential supplies for distribution,” the AFP said.

Apart from the use of two US C-130s, the US government has also extended $1.25-million emergency support.

Marcos visited Davao last week and extended P265 million worth of financial assistance to communities affected by the floods in the region.

A total of 1,389,073 individuals or 415,494 families were affected by the heavy flooding and landslide in 818 barangays in Northern Mindanao, Davao Region, Soccsksargen, Caraga and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, according to disaster officials.

Meanwhile, Marcos cited the importance of the sites under the US-Philippines’ EDCA for disaster relief and response, as he encouraged the US to make full use of those facilities.

For Carlson, there is so much that can be done more efficiently “through the mechanism that exists.”

“But sometimes you just need an extra push, and it is also a good demonstration of how good the alliance can deliver,” she said.

In April last year, Malacañang announced four new EDCA sites in the country: Naval Base Camilo Osias in Sta. Ana, Cagayan; Lal-lo Airport in Lal-lo, Cagayan; Camp Melchor dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela and Balabac Island in Palawan.

Marcos had said the additional EDCA sites would not be used for offensive actions, adding that the locations were selected due to their susceptibility to natural disasters.

“These are existing bases. The only difference with what we did here is that with the EDCA, we give an opportunity to … our only treaty partner, which is the United States, we give them a chance to be able to come and help us in any way, especially – that really started with helping with disaster relief,” he said in an interview in April last year.

Australia: Valued partner

In another development, the Philippines emphasized the importance of Australia’s contributions on defense, security, cyber cooperation and transnational crime.

“ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) continues to view Australia as a valuable partner in safeguarding peace, security and stability in the region,” said Department of Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary and ASEAN-Philippines director-general Daniel Espiritu, representing Undersecretary and ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting leader Maria Theresa Lazaro.

The Philippines led discussions on ASEAN-Australia Political-Security Cooperation during the 36th ASEAN-Australia Forum held in Melbourne, Australia.

ASEAN member-states and Australia will hold the special summit to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations scheduled on March 4-6.

Australia holds the distinction of being the ASEAN’s oldest dialogue partner, having established formal relations in 1974. – Pia Lee-Brago

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