PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd will push for stronger defense, trade and people-to-people ties when he meets with US President Barack Obama today in Malacañang, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said on Sunday.
“President Aquino will convey the country’s vision for an enduring and strategic Philippine-US partnership that will be characterized by modern, mature and forward-looking bilateral relations on three major fronts: strengthening political and security cooperation, expanding trade and investments, tourism and development cooperation, and deepening people-to-people ties,” Coloma said.
While the issue on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) disputes is also likely to be tackled, he expressed confidence that it will be done within the parameters of the Mutual Defense Treaty and the soon to be crafted Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca).
“We know that the US is our lone treaty ally in the field of defense and security and the US has been sharing its insights and position with regard to regional stability,” Coloma noted.
At the same time, he said the Edca, which will give US troops the right to “share” camps with Philippine forces, is yet to be submitted by Filipino and American negotiators.
Obama’s visit will be capped by a state dinner to be attended by 300 delegates and guests.
Also to be discussed by the two leaders are the welfare of millions of Filipinos in the US and the influx of American tourists.
“People-to-people ties are strong with an estimated 2.27 million Filipinos living in the United States. Thousands of US tourists visit the Philippines every year. In 2013, there were more than 670,000 tourists from the US to the Philippines,” Coloma pointed out.
The Palace official said the partnership in economic development focuses on enabling the Philippines to meet its Millennium Development Goals “through direct economic assistance and improving public infrastructure, achieving significant poverty reduction and supporting the administration’s good governance and anti-corruption agenda.”
“Trade expansion and facilitation is another priority concern, considering that the two countries are trading partners, and the US is the second-largest destination of Philippine exports,” Coloma added.
He said Obama’s visit will not infuriate China because the disputes over territories in the Spratlys in the South China Sea “do not define the totality of Philippine-China relations.”
“Our view is clearly defined at all times that we have existing relations with the People’s Republic of China that [are]based on friendship and cooperation,” Coloma added.
“And even if there are issues or concerns, President Aquino already declared when he first visited China that the West Philippine Sea does not define the totality of Philippine-China relations,” he said.
Because of Obama’s visit, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) will close some roads, particularly in areas where Obama’s convoy will pass through.
MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino over the weekend said 600 MMDA personnel will be deployed during the two-day visit of Obama.
Emerson Carlos, MMDA assistant general manager for operations, urged motorists to avoid Roxas Boulevard that stretches from Manila to Pasay City.