Despite challenges, US-PH ties will remain strong, says envoy
MANILA, Philippines – Despite calls to scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) following the alleged the murder of a Filipino transgender by a US Marine, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg on Monday said he was certain that the two countries’ relationship will remain strong.
“As I look ahead, I know we will be faced by challenges and uncertainty but just as was the case 70 years ago, we will prevail,” Goldberg said during the 70th anniversary of the Leyte Landing when General Douglas McArthur returned to the Philippines to face the Japanese forces.
He recalled how Americans and Filipinos worked together during World War II “to achieve what may have at times seemed impossible” and “turn the tides of a war.”
He gave his speech as activists assail the VFA and the continued presence of US troops in the country. With the murder of transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude and the filing of a complaint against Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, critics are again questioning the VFA provision allowing the US military to retain custody over American soldiers accused of violating Philippine laws.
Goldberg did not mention the incident but said that the two countries will continue “to renew and expand upon [their] partnership.”
“When we examine our shared history and our shared victory, when we consider the values that underline our relationship – courage, mutual respect and freedom – there can be no doubt that by working together we will meet any challenge no matter how great,” he said.
The envoy reiterated US President Barack Obama’s earlier statement that “America’s committment to the Philippines is ironclad.” He said it is “unmistakenly embodied in the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty, a pillar of our relationship and a source of stability in the region for over 63 years.”
The Mutual Defense Treaty is the basis of the VFA, which eventually replaced the Military Bases Agreement after it was terminated by the Senate.
Addressing President Benigno Aquino III and other ambassadors attending the event in Leyte, Goldberg said the alliance of the US and the Philippines during the World War II remind the two countries of their “enduring friendship.”
“As to the words of McArthur from 70 years ago, ‘We have come dedicated and committed. And it is these words that embody the strong partnership that exists between the Philippines and the United States over the past seven decades’,” he said.
“Our resolve to work together during good times and bad is a testament to the friendship our two countries share.”
Testament to that commitment was the P6.4 billion worth of relief assistance offered by the US for those affected by super typhoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) last year,” he said.
Goldberg pointed out that the US was able to quickly respond when “Yolanda” hit Central Visayas on November 8, 2013.
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