Lorenzana, Kim reaffirm PH-US bond at Fall of Corregidor rites
In a time of shifting alliances, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and US Ambassador Sung Kim reaffirmed on Saturday the “unshakable bond” between the Philippines and the United States as they marked the 75th anniversary of the Fall of Corregidor in World War II.
Kim noted that the anniversary came on the eve of Balikatan 33-2017, or the joint military exercises between American and Filipino troops, which begins this week.
“As allies, friends, and partners, our two great nations have faced together both triumph and adversity, incredible adversity,” Kim said in his speech during a solemn ceremony at the Pacific War Memorial on Corregidor Island.
“The United States is proud to be a true partner of the Philippines,” he added. “Our alliance is strong, enduring and poised to meet the challenge of the future.”
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Kim acknowledged that Washington had “human rights-related” concerns with the Duterte administration’s war on drugs. But he said the relationship between the two countries should be seen in its “bigger context.”
“I think it is important to remember that we have a broad and deep relationship,” Kim said. “There are many aspects to this relationship.”
“There is no question that there are human rights-related concerns,” he went on. “But we need to put everything on a broader perspective and context. The reality is that we have a very strong compelling alliance between our two countries.”
Kim said the Philippines and the US have a “very robust economic engagement,” “very, very deep people-to-people ties,” and strong cultural affinities.
“So, I think we need to look at specific issues in their broader context,” he said. “Even as we speak here today, our nation’s militaries are preparing to train shoulder to shoulder in Balikatan 33 starting in just a few days.”
Lorenzana said that while some Balikatan activities had been suspended, Balikatan remains a “military-to-military exercise.”
“We’ve postponed somewhat the landing exercises and the passage exercise in the South China Sea.” Lorenza said at the commemoration ceremony on Corregidor. “That was suspended somewhat but Balikatan continues.”
“It will still be a military-to-military exercise but those invasion scenarios are gone,” he added. “What we are concentrating now on humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and counter-terrorism,.”
President Rodrigo Duterte had threatened to scrap the Balikatan exercises as he tried to steer the Philippines closer to China and away from its traditional ally, the United States.
“The sacrifices of every American and Filipino who fought together in defense of our nations during that war forged an unshakable bond between our two peoples,” Kim said.
“In the aftermath of World War II, our two nations together with many other partners built a rules-based order that continues to promote and sustain security stability and economic progress throughout the Asia-Pacific region,” he added.
Lorenzana said that American and Filipino officials would meet again later this year to decide what activities to hold during next year’s exercises.
“Every year, we talk about the Balikatan exercises. It actually evolves. Depending on the needs that we see, we will shift to another activity,” he said. /atm
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