Thank you very much, Ellen, Gaby. Delighted to be with you this morning. Good morning, everyone. It’s really a great opportunity for me to discuss my favorite topic – the U.S.-Philippines relationship.
In my relatively brief time here in the Philippines, I have been impressed by how everyone — both Americans and Filipinos — working on U.S.-Philippines relations is so deeply committed to the strong and enduring partnership between the two countries. This is indeed a very important relationship for both countries, and I am honored to be serving as the United States Ambassador to the Republic of the Philippines.
The U.S. is one of the largest foreign investors in the Philippines and the U.S. is the Philippines’ third-largest trading partner. As investors, employers, and exporters, U.S. companies here have contributed greatly to our two countries’ relations.
Our close bonds are reinforced by the more than four million Filipinos and Filipino-Americans in the United States who are helping to shape the political and economic future of both countries.
The Philippines is also our oldest ally in Asia, and one of our most special friends and partners anywhere.
We are proud to have supported the Armed Forces of the Philippines as they defeated the terrorist insurrection in Marawi City. As Secretary Mattis made clear earlier this week, we commend the outstanding work of the Philippines’ military in retaking Marawi. They deserve great respect and appreciation. I also would like to again offer our deepest condolences to the people of the Philippines for the suffering and the loss of life during the five months’ ordeal.
We will continue to support the Philippines’ government as it begins to rehabilitate Marawi and the surrounding area.
As I announced last month, the U.S. government has made available more than 730 million pesos for emergency relief operations as well as long term recovery and rehabilitation.
This includes 153 million pesos in humanitarian assistance and more than 577 million pesos to support the early recovery, stabilization, and rehabilitation of Marawi and the surrounding area.
We are also supporting educational programs that bring together students and women leaders to explore innovative ways to address the challenges facing the people of Marawi and the Mindanao region.
Beyond the recent crisis in Marawi, the U.S. military continues to work closely with the Philippine Armed Forces to enhance our joint ability to fight terrorism and respond to emergencies and natural disasters.
From providing intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance support through manned and unmanned systems, to sharing intelligence and information, and offering technical advice, our militaries are working together very closely.
Our military cooperation also features significant equipment grants, including the recent delivery of two sophisticated Cessna C-208 ISR aircraft worth 1.5 billion pesos, and valuable training programs such as countering improvised explosive devices, urban terrain warfare, maritime interdiction, and marksmanship.
So, we are obviously very deeply committed to this alliance and look forward to doing everything possible to strengthen the special military partnership.
There are of course many other great examples of our close cooperation including in law enforcement but let me stop here in the interest of time and go to your questions. Thank you very much.