President Obama visited the Philippines from April 28-29 to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to the alliance, and to discuss with President Aquino our strategic vision for the bilateral relationship. The President noted our shared history, shared democratic values, strong people-to-people ties, commitment to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, and commitment to build prosperity for our people and the global economy.
During the visit, President Obama and President Aquino announced that the two countries agreed to an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). The agreement will help the U.S.-Philippine alliance continue to promote the peace and stability that has underpinned Asia’s remarkable economic growth over the past six decades. The EDCA updates and strengthens U.S.-Philippine defense cooperation to meet 21st century challenges. The agreement will facilitate the enhanced rotational presence of U.S. forces; facilitate humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the Philippines and the region; improve opportunities for bilateral training; and support the long-term modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as it works to establish a minimum credible defense.
The United States has already begun to provide $40 million in technical expertise, training, and equipment through the Global Security Contingency Fund to strengthen the Philippines’ security operations and maritime domain awareness capabilities, the United States is supporting the AFP as it transitions from internal security to external defense (as outlined in the Philippine government’s 2011 “Internal Peace and Security Plan”). This funding also assists the Philippine National Police as they assume a leading role in providing internal security and combating terrorism.
The United States, through the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, is also helping to construct a Philippine National Coast Watch Center in Manila that will assist the Philippine Coast Guard in assuming increased responsibility for enhancing information sharing and interagency coordination in maritime security operations.
The Aquino administration has made significant progress in implementing economic policy and institutional reforms and has achieved remarkable improvements in GDP growth, competitiveness, intellectual property protection and enforcement, tax revenues, and the country’s sovereign debt ranking. The United States is supporting that effort through the Partnership for Growth (PFG), an enhanced engagement of 15 U.S. government agencies aiming to address the most significant constraints to growth in the Philippines and to stimulate inclusive economic expansion. USAID and the Millennium Challenge Corporation account for the majority of PFG financial resources amounting to more than $750 million.
Together we have made enormous strides in deepening economic linkages between our two countries. These include:
- Removal of the Philippines from the Special 301 Watch List, based on significant advances in the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights;
- Considerable progress on worker rights issues in the Philippines, which will allow the U.S. government to close a Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) review of worker rights in Philippines without any change to the Philippines’ GSP trade benefits;
- Actions to further strengthen and expand bilateral agricultural trade – including for U.S. meat and vegetable exports to Philippines as well as Philippine fruit exports to the United States – recognizing the sector’s increasing importance to the bilateral relationship;
- Announcement on April 10 by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration that the Republic of the Philippines complies with international safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization and has been granted a Category 1 rating; and
- Agreement in principle on the general market access terms, including steps to facilitate trade by the Philippines, which would enable the United States to support special WTO treatment for the Philippines’ rice imports through 2017. Both governments intend to finalize a letter exchange memorializing this understanding by June 1.
To further strengthen the United States’ enduring ties to the Asia-Pacific region, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker will travel to the Philippines in June in conjunction with a delegation of U.S. CEOs. The engagement of our respective private sectors is critical for strengthening our ties and for generating economic growth and high-paying jobs both in the United States and in the region.
The United States and the Philippines have a strong, $24 billion-a-year trade relationship, and our two governments are committed to building on that for mutual benefit. We discussed Philippine interest in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which the United States sees as the most promising pathway to promoting Asia-Pacific economic integration and the best way for countries in the region to encourage economic reform and development, increase regional and global competitiveness, and create jobs.
The United States will continue to support the Philippine government’s medium- to long-term recovery efforts following Typhoon Haiyan, directed at infrastructure and livelihood development, by working hand in hand with the President’s Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery and local government units. The United States is providing $140 million towards typhoon recovery.
The United States welcomes the finalization of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as an important step in ending violence in the southern Philippines. The United States continues to support efforts to improve governance and foster development in Mindanao through ongoing programs aimed at strengthening local governments’ ability to deliver basic social and economic services, improving governments’ transparency and accountability, and supporting civic engagement in local communities.
The United States and the Philippines share extensive people-to-people ties. Around 350,000 Americans reside in the Philippines, and approximately 600,000 U.S. citizens visit the country each year. There are approximately 4 million people of Philippine descent in the United States. The Philippines boasts the world’s oldest continuous operating Fulbright program: the Philippine-American Educational Foundation, established in 1948. In 2013, the U.S. Embassy in Manila processed close to 200,000 non-immigrant visa applications and nearly 65,000 immigrant visa cases. Since 1961, over 8,500 Peace Corps Volunteers have served in the Philippines, and at present, 130 Peace Corps Volunteers are working in the country on education, youth development, environmental conservation, and disaster management issues.