Our special 120th Independence Day DC celebration

- The Philippine Star

Last Nov. 29 when I presented my credentials to President Donald Trump at the White House, it was very reassuring to receive a very warm welcome from the US president who, as I was walking into the Oval Office, exclaimed, “Oh, Philippines!”

I had a good cordial conversation with President Trump for several minutes, who talked about how he enjoyed his trip to Manila and described President Duterte’s singing during the gala dinner as “fantastic!” The US president even jokingly said that “President Rodrigo sounded like Frank Sinatra.”

Clearly, that genial encounter set the tone in rebooting the relationship between the Philippines and the United States under the administration of Donald Trump. As everyone knows, we had a bit of a problem under the past administration of Barack Obama shortly after President Rody waged the drug war. With the new Trump administration, things have gradually warmed up.

Obviously, the encounter with President Trump buoyed me up and set the tone on what my role will be. In the past four and a half months since I formally took on the role of Philippine Ambassador to the United States, I have been doing the rounds meeting US congressmen, senators, State and Pentagon officials, and several White House executives.

I am encouraged by the fact that the relationship between the United States and the Philippines – which has been in existence for over 70 years – continues to be deep and strong, so much so that whatever disagreements the two nations may have, and despite occasional bumps that may happen along the way, the special relationship is truly unbreakable and stable.

As US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim asserted during the port visit of USS Theodore Roosevelt in Manila recently, the friendship between the two nations has never been stronger. The presence of the US aircraft carrier 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 remains unbreakable,” Ambassador Kim said. This commitment is also seen clearly on the number of American companies that are investing in the thriving economy of the Philippines, he added.

As we have been explaining to our friends here in Washington, D.C., President Duterte’s independent foreign policy is aimed at diversification of relationships and alliances as the Philippines seeks to be “a friend to all and enemy to none.”

This independent foreign policy is actually in keeping with the message of President Trump that he wants to see “a coalition of strong and independent nations that embrace their sovereignty to promote security, prosperity and peace for themselves and for the world.” I think our efforts are paying off as our friends are beginning to understand and respect our stance. Even the students and faculty of North Virginia Community College Manassas Campus where I was invited as speaker in the 6th International Speaker Series (see photos in This Week on PeopleAsia at the Allure section of the Philippine STAR today) agreed with our perspective.

Together with our Public Diplomacy team, we have also been going around actively engaging with members of the Filipino-American community who are all looking forward to the forthcoming June 12 celebration of the 120th Anniversary of the proclamation of Philippine Independence. After consulting with our Embassy staff, I have decided to do something special and hold our celebration at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

The Trump hotel may have some political undertones because it is associated with the US president, but since several other embassies have also held their national day celebrations at the Trump hotel which were well attended – I decided – why not do it there, too. Besides, being my first year as Philippine ambassador and considering that it is the 120th year of our independence, I felt that an elegant and historic venue like the Trump hotel, which was originally the Old Post Office building along Pennsylvania avenue, would be perfect for the occasion.

The 120-year milestone celebration of our independence will be very meaningful and special. Before the holding of the diplomatic reception at the Trump International Hotel on June 12, the Embassy will be open on June 10 – a Sunday – to render consular services that include passport services, civil registration and overseas voting registration and legalization of documents (no appointment needed). The Embassy will also host seminars by the Philippine Overseas Labor and Welfare Office, the Social Security System and the Philippine Trade and Investment Center as part of our “Paglilingkod at Pagdiriwang sa Araw ng Kalayaan 2018” activities.

No doubt I am extremely grateful to my close friends in the Philippine business circle who are helping me in making our reception at the hotel possible. Obviously without them, I will not be able to pull this one off. Actually, right after I accepted this job, my businessmen-friends gave me assurances of their full support.

I’m also happy that we expect quite a number of guests to be in attendance from the business and government sector here in Washington, D.C. as well as our colleagues from the diplomatic circle. We also expect a number of US congressmen and senators, and some prominent members of the Filipino-American community. In fact, some of our guests will be flying in from Manila to join us. The Embassy staff are all working hard to make our Independence Day celebration very special – made even more significant and meaningful because we are commemorating a major milestone in our nation’s history combined with the 70-year relationship we have had with the United States.

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Email: [email protected].


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