Envoy sees Democrats targeting US military aid to PH under Biden presidency
MANILA, Philippines—Legislation in the US Congress calling for an end to US military aid to the Philippines could emerge under the leadership of President-elect Joe Biden, according to Manila’s top diplomat in Washington on Thursday (Nov. 19).
Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez said a bill was filed recently by a Democrat in the US House of Representatives seeking to suspend military and police aid to the Philippines “on the issue of human rights.”
It was “something that could come into play under the administration of President-elect Biden,” Romualdez said at an online forum of the Rotary Club.
The proposed Philippine Human Rights Act, introduced in September by Democratic Pennsylvania Rep. Susan Wild, seeks to block funding to military and police in the Philippines following the enactment of the anti-terrorism law and alleged human rights abuses under the administration of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
Romualdez said the “usual suspects” could take advantage of the new leadership in the United States and “try to put a wedge” between Duterte and Biden, who will be inaugurated as the 48th President of the United States on Jan. 20.
Palace spokesperson Harry Roque last September dismissed the “very wild” proposal, saying the bill was unlikely to pass the US Congress.
“We are confident that the State Department and administration of President Trump, because of the friendship between our President with President Trump, is seeing the value of continued cooperation between the United States and the Philippines,” Roque had said in Filipino.
Romualdez said human rights issues had been raised even against Duterte’s predecessors.
“We’re not saying that there are no human rights violations but people must also recognize that something is in fact being done such as filing of the case of the police force who are themselves involved in the illegal drugs trade,” he said.
He said that the US can even give advice to the Philippines and discuss these issues “as friends and allies.”
“But at the end of the day, they also have to respect our sovereignty and recognize that we are an independent nation,” Romualdez said.
He said there are “so many things that we should focus on to keep the alliance solid and stable.”
“We should not allow certain groups that have their own political agenda to undermine that relationship,” he said.
From 2016 to 2019, Romualdez said the US provided more than $550 million in military assistance to the Philippines.
On the South China Sea front, the ambassador said the Biden administration was likely to continue the Trump administration’s policy on China’s aggression in the area.
“In my conversations with some of foreign policy advisers of President-elect Biden, they indicated that they will most likely continue the current policy regarding China and the South China Sea and the importance of the 2016 PCA [Permanent Court of Arbitration] decision in maintaining peace and balance in the region,” he said, referring to the international arbitral ruling declaring China’s nine-dash line claim over nearly the entire South China Sea as baseless.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who met with US embassy officials last week, said he was assured that the Philippine and US alliance would remain the same whoever occupied the White House.
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