PILAR, Bataan: United States (US) Ambassador to Manila Philip Goldberg on Wednesday declared that any threat facing the Philippines is also a threat to America, stressing the need for the two countries to strengthen their military to respond better to man-made threats and natural disasters.
“As treaty allies, when the Philippines faces threats or natural disasters, so do we,” said the US envoy during rites celebrating Araw ng Kagitingan (the Day of Valor) on Mount Samat in Bataan province.
Goldberg pointed out that defense ties between the two countries had been bolstered by the entry of a former enemy, Japan, into a mutual alliance with them.
“Today, it is remarkable that not just our two nations, but three, the US, the Philippines and Japan, have forged close and enduring friendships, alliances and strategic partnerships based on democratic values and mutual respect that came from the blood and sacrifice of our reliant soldiers,” the US official stressed.
Goldberg’s remarks came after US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel defended the Philippines’ claims over its territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). Hagel, who earlier warned China against “redrawing” its borders, was in Beijing for a state visit.
There, he clashed with his Chinese counterpart on the issue on Japan and the Philippines.
“The Philippines and Japan are long-time allies of the United States. We have mutual self-defense treaties with each of those countries,” Hagel said.
The US defense chief added that his government is “fully committed to those treaty obligations.”
Hagel accused China of fanning tensions in the disputed regions by declaring an air defense zone in the East China Sea with “no collaboration, no consultation.” These, he pointed out, could “eventually get to dangerous conflict.”
China’s minister of Defense Gen. Chang Wanquan said Beijing would make “no compromise, no concession, no treaty.”
Goldberg said the last world war brought the US and the Philippines closer together as allies in the Pacific.
“In both American and Filipino families, these events have been passed down by the guerillas and soldiers who shared their stories of courage and friendship to the next generations. Their shared history of heroism binds individuals and countries together and moves us forward toward our common goals. Like soldiers walking side by side, our friendship is stronger through the adversity we have faced together. It is a shared history of sacrifice that forges the special relationships of today,” he added.
The US, the Philippines and Japan, the US ambassador said, will make each step “toward further peace and prosperity, democracy and the rule of law,” which is a way to honor those who died valiantly after the fall of Bataan and Corregidor.
“As shown in history and until this very day, we can and will continue to work together, shoulder-to-shoulder, to improve each other’s military and our nations as a whole. As Typhoon Yolanda demonstrated, when our nations’ soldiers and civilians work together, we are prepared to react and respond to any disaster,” Goldberg added.
Friends and partners
President Benigno Aquino 3rd echoed the US ambassador’s statements, saying former rivals who once shot at each other are now friends and allies.
But he stressed that Filipinos will always defend the country’s interests, the same way that soldiers fought invaders during World War II.
“Even back then, it was clear to all Filipinos. Small though we may be, if we know that we are on the side of what is right and just, we will fight,” Aquino said.
“And on this day, I ask all of you to join me in declaring the Filipino will always stand for what is right,” he added.
In his speech, the President called attention to the fact that the former foes are now allies who have come to “understand and cooperate with one another.”
“Today, it is clear that we are friends and partners, understanding that we are fellow citizens of humanity, with our own goals and our own fears, capable of comprehending the thinking, culture and principles of each one, and working together to achieve the collective aspirations of our countries. In this way, we can ensure that the dark chapter of our history will not repeat itself,” he said. “Former rivals have shaken one another’s hands, embraced each other, and said, ‘The conflict is over, my friend. Let us help each other.’”
The Philippine government has repeatedly said t it will not resort to violence or escalate tensions in its long-standing territorial dispute with China.
The country has pursued international arbitration and submitted a memorial against China, which refused to join the arbitration.
China, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations have overlapping claims over the West Philippine Sea.
The President lauded the seven Marines stationed at Ayungin Shoal, led by First Lt. Mike Pelotera.
“Just think of the gravity of their sacrifice. For five months, their entire world revolved around the sea. They had almost no communication with their families, there were even times when the supplies and food they needed were blocked from reaching them. Day and night, on board the stranded BRP Sierra Madre, their dedication was anchored on keeping watch over, and safeguarding, our territory,” he said.
“This is why, together with our veterans, soldiers like them are among those we honor today. The Filipino nation salutes all of you,” Aquino added.
“Beterano at kawal Pilipino, saludo sa inyo ang sambayanang Pilipino [Veterans and soldiers, the entire nation salutes you],” the President said.