The alliance of the United States (US) and the Philippines has been the “cornerstone of security” in the Asia Pacific region, newly installed US Ambassador to Manila Philip Goldberg said on Tuesday.
In a statement shortly after he presented his credentials to President Benigno Aquino 3rd, Goldberg highlighted the strong and deep relationship between Washington and Manila, which he said was evident in the participation of American soldiers in the relief operations in Eastern Visayas.
He lauded the devotion of Americans and Filipinos in rushing to help those in need after the typhoon flattened entire towns in Leyte and Samar provinces, particularly Tacloban City.
“This cooperation in the selfless service of others truly represents the best of our two nations. I am confident that with strength and resilience, the people touched by this tragedy will soon rebuild their lives,” Goldberg said. “And the United States will be there to help them along the way.”
He said Washington does not intend to reestablish permanent military bases in the country. The Increased Rotational Presence (IRP) framework agreement being cobbled together by the US and Philippines has sparked concerns that the US might reopen its bases in the Philippines it abandoned in 1991.
“Let me say clearly though, we’re not talking about bases or any kind of new bases for the United States,” Goldberg stressed.
He noted that the framework agreement “is about our capacity to help the Philippine government and military as it advances in many areas in its own interests.”
“There are reasons to build minimal defense capability and maritime defense awareness. That will come with a framework agreement,” he added. “I don’t know exactly when we (will) have an agreement. What I can say is that it’s important for both countries.”
He reminded that Filipinos and Americans fought side-by-side during the World War II and “subsequent conflicts to defend our shared values.”
The foundation of the relationship between the two countries is its people-to-people ties, Goldberg said, noting that some four million Filipino-Americans live in the United States while there are 350,000 Americans in the Philippines.
Goldberg said the past relations between Manila and Washington will only add fuel to a future “that is bright with promise and potential.”
He promised to maintain the close ties of the two nations “on regional security, counter-terrorism, and in combating transnational crime, including the scourge of trafficking in persons.”
Goldberg added that the Philippine and US militaries will also continue working together on disaster relief, peacekeeping, defense form and human rights. He also mentioned cooperation in the field of maritime security, a touchy subject because of China’s increasingly aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea.
The region, believed to hold vast amounts of oil and mineral deposits, is being claimed in whole by China, and in part by the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam.
Goldberg said Manila must continue leading the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in promoting democracy and human rights in the region.
The Philippines is a founding member of Asean, which groups Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Brunei Darussalam.
“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,” Goldberg said.
“Through these efforts, we hope to see the Philippines achieve growth that is both inclusive and sustainable,” he added.
The US will also work with the Philippines in undertaking long-term disaster risk reduction efforts “that will mitigate the impact of natural disasters on lives and property.”