We had a successful Independence Day celebration

BABE’S EYE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON D.C. - Babe Romualdez - The Philippine Star

Our 120th anniversary Independence Day celebration last June 12 was a huge success at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. Since I had the option of choosing the venue because I had my personal Philippine business friends shoulder the expenses, I decided the Trump International Hotel was the perfect venue for my first year as Philippine ambassador to the United States.

Many of the key US government officials particularly from the White House were invited but because of the summit between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore, most did not make it. Nevertheless, we had a well-attended reception with over 300 guests (photos will be featured next Sunday in the Allure Section of the Philippine STAR) that included members of the US Congress, and members of the State and Defense departments. Our guest speaker was supposed to be the United States Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer, a good friend of mine, but he was ably represented by Undersecretary Thomas Modly.

As usual, we can never please everyone so we had the usual professional rallyists and hecklers outside the hotel. Nonetheless, a majority of Filipinos were proud to showcase Filipino cuisine like the award-winning pork sisig of Philippine embassy chef Abie Sincioco-Mateo who bagged the People’s Choice and Judges’ Choice top awards during the recent Embassy Chef Challenge.  

In my keynote speech, I started by saying that, a century and two decades since General Emilio Aguinaldo declared our independence from Spanish colonial rule… our country has gone through ups and downs and highs and lows, with our history – and story as a nation – punctuated by many challenging and difficult times. 

Our indomitable spirit as well as our resilience and determination saw us through those challenging times, our resolve strengthened by the remembrance of the blood and sacrifices of our forefathers that have given us the independence and freedom we enjoy today.

However, I have always believed that true independence is not simply having freedom of speech or the ability to express one’s political beliefs and enjoy the other fruits of democracy – but for our nation to be self-reliant, for the people to benefit from economic progress and development, and be liberated from the chains of poverty.

Our country today is going through tremendous changes, with “name brand” politics no longer the order of the day. This was seen in the overwhelming victory of a little-known Davao City mayor – Rodrigo Roa Duterte – as president. His election to the presidency manifested the true will and sentiment of the Filipino people who have grown tired of the old practice of “politics as usual” that has failed to bring about real, meaningful reforms.

This aspiration for meaningful change is reflected in President Duterte’s program of government that is focused on answering the basic needs of ordinary citizens, underscored by the national budget that prioritizes free education in state colleges and universities, universal healthcare and infrastructure development. This administration is intent on ridding the country of social ills that have hampered sustainable development and progress, eliminating corruption and criminality, enhancing government transparency and improving public service.

The government wants to modernize and build the capacity of our law enforcement and defense agencies to make the Philippines a fertile ground of law and order – not transnational crimes like terrorism, human and drug trafficking, and cybercrime. 

We want to develop an economy that encourages broad-based growth, and at the centerpiece of the Duterte administration’s economic agenda is the “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program with 75 high-impact, flagship projects aimed at creating jobs and stimulating economic growth. 

The signing of the Ease of Doing Business Act will eliminate red tape as it shortens the time for business applications and processing. The Philippines continues to be one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, with so many opportunities for investment. As I told our American businessmen friends, it makes business sense to partner with the Philippines.

Over the decades, the United States and the Philippines have forged a strong partnership –  an alliance that is not only deep and extensive but also multifaceted, evolving into one that is reliable and proactive. It is rather fortunate that both President Trump and President Duterte are of the same thinking. 

President Trump encourages US allies “to be strong, independent and prosperous, in control of their own destinies, and satellites to no one.” Clearly, his words are manifest in President Duterte’s new independent foreign policy that aims for a strong Philippines that has the capacity to take care of its own problems. This new independent foreign policy also means diversifying relationships and alliances as the Philippines desires to be “a friend to all and enemy to none,” especially at this time when nations must work together on issues of mutual concern like security and the economy.

But just to be clear: These new friendships will not be at the expense of our relationship with our traditional ally because our partnership is strong and extensive, enduring and stable, able to withstand the bumps and challenges that have come along the way. 

For while it is true that the only permanent thing in this world is change, I truly believe that the one thing that will remain constant is the special relationship between the Philippines and the United States, rooted in our shared history and the deep people-to-people relations that have only grown stronger over the years. As Philippine Ambassador to the US, I look forward to the work of continually strengthening our longstanding relationship with our ally, the United States.

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Email: [email protected].

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