MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines on Tuesday joined other nations in mourning for the death of US Senator Daniel Inouye and commended how the legislator was “a true friend and an invaluable champion of the Philippines in the United States Congress.”
In a statement, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario noted how Inouye, as Senate President Pro Tempore and Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, was instrumental in advancing Philippine interests in the US Congress, citing his efforts to increase US military assistance to the country, pass the bill granting benefits to Filipino World War II veterans, and advocate the passage of the Save Our Industries (Save) Act.
“I personally recall how he kindly mentored me when, as the Philippine Ambassador to the United States, I was learning to navigate the intricate workings of the US Congress,” Del Rosario said.
International news agencies had reported that the 88-year old senator of Hawaii died of respiratory problems at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at around 6:01 am Tuesday (Manila Time).
Del Rosario, in his statement, also extended the country’s sympathies to Inouye’s wife Irene, and son Daniel Ken Inouye Jr,
“We pray that they will find solace from all the good things Senator Inouye accomplished in his extraordinary lifetime,” Del Rosario said.
US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr on Tuesday morning also offered his sympathies to the family of the senator.
“Rest in peace, Senator Inouye of Hawaii. A US patriot and a true friend of the Philippines. The world is a better place thanks to you,” Thomas said in his official twitter account.
Inouye, who was given the Order of Sikatuna Award by President Benigno Aquino III, was one of the senators who pushed for the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation Fund and the recognition of Filipinos World War II veterans.
Inouye planned to visit the Philippines in 2013 – Cuisia
In a separate statement, Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Cuisia noted that Inouye was “more than just a friend of the Philippines as the Filipino people have embraced him as one of their own.”
“Many people may not be aware of it but Senator Inouye was actually always proud to say that he was an honorary citizen of Bulacan and Pangasinan,” Cuisia said.
“Senator Inouye’s affinity with the Philippines is also evident in the fact that that majority of his constituents in Hawaii come from Ilocos,” he added.
Cuisia said that as the most senior member of the Senate, Inouye was the third in line of presidential succession after Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner. Inouye was also a World War II veteran and a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, Cuisia said.
In the almost five decades that he served, Senator Inouye sponsored and supported numerous bills that strengthened Philippine-American relations, he added.
Cuisia particularly noted that Inouye was instrumental in the enactment of the Filipino Veterans Bill under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
“Senator Inouye believed that the US has shortchanged the Philippines with its unfulfilled promise to Filipinos who were drafted in 1941 to serve alongside US soldiers in World War II and he wanted to make up for that,” Cuisia said.
Cuisia noted that Inouye was also the main sponsor of the Save Our Industries Act, a bill that he said aimed to increase jobs and exports income for both countries by allowing the export to the US of Philippine apparel made of American fabrics.
During Inouye’s visit to the Philippines in 2011, Aquino conferred on him one of the country’s highest awards—the Order of Sikatuna—for fostering, developing and strengthening relations between the Philippines and the United States. He was also previously awarded the Order of Lakandula and was presented with a Presidential Citation.
Cuisia also noted that in June, Inouye organized a Senate reception for Aquino during his official working visit to Washington. His last meeting with Filipino officials was with Del Rosario and Justice Secretary Leila De Lima in September.
“Senator Inouye was planning to visit the Philippines again next year,” Cuisia said.