US lawmakers stand with Philippines vs Chinese sea aggression

Helen Flores - The Philippine Star
US lawmakers stand with Philippines vs Chinese sea aggression
President Marcos meets with a US congressional delegation made up of Senators Kirsten Elizabeth Gillibrand, Cynthia Jeanne Shaheen, Roger Wayne Marshall, Mark Edward Kelly, Cynthia Marie Lummis and Michael Farrand Bennet as well as Rep. Adriano Espallat. Joining them in the meeting at Malacañang yesterday were US Ambassador MaryKay Carlson and Col. Edward Evans of the US embassy.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Visiting US lawmakers expressed their concern over China’s continued aggression in Philippine waters during their meeting with President Marcos at Malacañang yesterday.

“We share your concern about China’s aggression with regard to many issues around the Philippines. We stand with you and we want to continue to stand by you, and with you, and to push that aggression back appropriately,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who led the US congressional delegation, told Marcos during their courtesy call.

The Philippines strongly protested the latest attempt on March 23 by China coast guard and maritime militia to stop a rotation and resupply mission for troops on the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal using water cannons.

The US congressional delegation arrived yesterday to discuss Philippines-US relations, as well as “promotion of regional peace and security through enhanced defense and security cooperation and economic cooperation,” among others, with the President, Malacañang said in a statement.

Marcos cited the importance of the US lawmakers’ two-day visit, noting that they’re “coming in the middle of your rather topsy-turvy political cycle.”

“I hope that the time that you will spend here can be a productive time where we are able to discuss further the situation concerning the Philippines and the geopolitical complications that we are facing presently,” the President said.

The other US lawmakers present at the meeting were Senators Jeanne Shaheen, Roger Marshall, Mark Kelly, Cynthia Lummis, Michael Bennet and Rep. Adriano Espaillat.

US Ambassador MaryKay Carlson accompanied the lawmakers.

Philippine officials present at the meeting were Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, National Security Adviser Eduardo Año and Presidential Communications Office Secretary Cheloy Garafil.

Gillibrand said the US Congress is “filled with optimism and hope” for the future of the US-Philippines relations.

“And we are so grateful for our years of friendship. We’re grateful for the steadfast partnership we had economically. We’re grateful to have you as an ally,” she said.

“Each of those roles is essential for the United States and we hope to continue to play those roles,” the US senator said.

“We do believe that we’re in a moment of extraordinary opportunity, especially for economic ties, to build upon existing strengths. Whether they are in the fields of energy, or in the fields of rare earth minerals, or in the fields of commerce,” Gillibrand said.

She said these are important alliances they want to continue to grow.

“We want to build on the trip that Secretary Raimondo just had here with a number of executives from our companies,” she added, referring to US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, who recently led the US Presidential Trade and Investment Mission to the Philippines.

The senator also cited the various contributions of the Filipino community in the US.

“We’re very grateful for all the contributions that the Filipino community has made in the United States,” she said.

“You’re the forefront of health care, you’re the forefront of tech, many of your countrymen have served in our armed services. And so, we’re very grateful for all the contributions that Filipino-Americans continue to make throughout the country,” Gillibrand said.

Marcos is set to attend a trilateral meeting with the leaders of the US and Japan in Washington next month.

Prior to the US congressional delegation’s visit to the Philippines, Marcos met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at Malacañang on March 19.

Earlier yesterday, India’s External Affairs Minister (EAM) Subrahmanyam Jaishankar met with Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo during which he reiterated his country’s support for the Philippines in the latter’s sovereignty issue with China.

“I take this opportunity to firmly reiterate India’s support to the Philippines for upholding its national sovereignty,” Jaishankar said at a joint press conference with Manalo.

“We firmly support the Philippines in the upholding of its national sovereignty, so I think our position is very, very clear,” he stressed.

Jaishankar’s Manila visit, which ends today, is part of his three-country Southeast Asia tour, which also includes Singapore and Malaysia.

He said India is convinced that progress and prosperity of the region are best served by strong adherence to a rules-based order, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

“All parties must adhere to it in its entirety, both in letter and spirit,” he added. — Pia Lee Brago

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