Ambassador’s Remarks for FOCAP Prospects Forum
February 24 2014
FOCAP President Gutierrez
Chief of Staff General Bautista
Members of FOCAP
I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today and your flexibility on my arrival time. I regret that I will not be able to stay for lunch, but I wanted to speak to you today because it is important to be open and clear on U.S. Philippine relations now and into the future.
I want to start though, with a comment on the dangers of being a journalist in the Philippines. Attempts to silence journalists through intimidation or killings are simply not acceptable. Democracy needs the press to be free.
The Philippines is among our oldest friends and allies. The U.S. seeks to deepen the alliance with stronger commercial, people-to-people and strategic ties. That is the essence of the much talked about rebalance.
- We will continue building on the success of the Philippines. We will support your efforts to make the Philippines more competitive in the world market by promoting open markets, protecting intellectual property rights, and fighting corruption.
- Through these efforts, we hope to see the Philippines achieve growth that is both inclusive and sustainable. A resilient and strong economy can contribute to a quicker recovery from disasters.
- The Philippines had one of the fastest-growing economies in the world in 2013. We feel that by enhancing the U.S. and Philippine economic partnership, we can create a shared prosperity that benefits us all.
- The United States is the Philippines’ second largest trading partner, with over $17 billion in two-way goods trade in 2012. We anticipate this will continue to increase.
- With strong economic growth and the government taking concrete steps to improve the business climate, we would expect to see an increase in U.S. companies wanting to invest in the Philippines.
- This trade is beneficial to the U.S. as well. By expanding free trade and economic growth with our Pacific partners we can contribute to America’s economic recovery. In fact, our $555 billion in exports to the region last year supported an estimated 2.8 million jobs in America. As Secretary of State John Kerry says, economic policy and foreign policy are one in the same and that’s why, from the start of his tenure, he has made building on President Obama’s strategic rebalance in Asia a clear priority.
- We will maintain our close partnership on regional security, counterterrorism, and in combating transnational crime, including the scourge of trafficking in persons. Our militaries will continue working together on disaster relief, maritime security, peacekeeping, defense reform, and human rights.
- The Philippines is embarked on a program to build a minimal credible defense as is the right of sovereign nations. The U.S. supports that effort. Nations need to be able to defend their borders and protect their people, not just from traditional aggression, but also from the threats of transnational crime, smuggling, and international terrorism.
- The U.S.-Philippines mutual defense treaty has been a cornerstone of stability and security in the region for decades, and will so continue. In addition to strong U.S.-Philippine ties, the Philippines’ close regional partnerships also contribute to peace and security.
- The United States will continue efforts to promote best practices and cooperation on all aspects of maritime security and bolster maritime domain awareness and our capacity building programs with the Philippines.
South China Sea
- As a maritime nation with global trading networks, the United States has a national interest in freedom of the seas and in unimpeded lawful commerce. And as we consistently state, we have a national interest in the maintenance of peace and stability; respect for international law; unimpeded lawful commerce; and freedom of navigation and overflight in the East China and South China Seas.
- We continue to support efforts by ASEAN and China to develop an effective Code of Conduct. We believe that agreement on a Code of Conduct is long overdue and the negotiating process should be accelerated.
- We support efforts, including those of the Philippines, to resolve disputes and overlapping claims through diplomacy and recognized international legal processes. A key part of that framework is inclusion of mechanisms such as hotlines and emergency procedures for preventing incidents in sensitive areas.
- We take no sides in the regional territorial disputes, but we do stand on principles. We reject unilateral attempts to alter the realities on the ground, the air or the sea. Consultation with neighbors, adherence to codes of conduct, respect for freedom of navigation, these are the bywords of the 21st century.
- We have consistently called on parties to clarify and explain their claims in accordance with international law.
- We have registered our objection to China’s recent declaration, without consultation with its neighbors, of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea . China should not attempt to implement the ADIZ and should refrain from taking similar actions elsewhere in the region.
Enhancing People to People Ties
- We share common values, family ties, and history. Our people-to-people ties have long been the foundation of our relationship, with some four million Filipino-Americans living in the United States and nearly 350,000 Americans living in the Philippines. Numerous cultural, educational, sports and other exchange programs help cement these deep personal connections.
- We encourage Filipinos to pursue higher education in the U.S. Through the Embassy’s Foreign Commercial Service we sponsored an education fair in October of last year, and we plan to do another one this year.
- Through USAID we are engaged supporting programs for Youth, Health, and local governance in Mindanao.
- I recently participated in the opening of a local produce market in Compostela that USAID helped rebuild after typhoon Pablo.
- We are continuing to support reconstruction and recovery in Tacloban and other areas devastated by Typhoon Yolanda. The U.S. has provided more than $87 million to that effort to date. In fact later this week I will be on hand to witness the arrival of over 5,000 metric tons of rice that is part of the continued support that Secretary Kerry promised on his visit to Tacloban.
- On March first and second we will be having the 7th iteration of what we call America in 3D – the D’s stand for diplomacy, development, and defense — where we bring the Embassy to the people. We are trying to demystify perceptions of what an Embassy is about. We want to get out from behind our walls.
- Long term, it is these people to people ties that will shape the nature of our relationship into the future.
- The U.S. focus on Asia goes beyond just words: we are dedicating more diplomatic, public diplomacy and assistance resources to the region in a way that is commensurate with the truly comprehensive nature of our engagement. And we are continuing to emphasize economic development, energy cooperation, people-to-people exchanges, youth and alumni, and education.
- While the U.S. rebalance represents a renewed commitment to the Asia-Pacific, it builds upon our active and enduring presence in the region as a Pacific nation. Our economic, diplomatic, and strategic ties in the region are stronger now than at any time in history.