Cuisia says Aquino visit, Save Act, Filvets’ claims top priorities in ’12
An official US visit by President Benigno Aquino III in May or June, passage of the Save Our Industries (SAVE Act), and approval of the equity benefit claims being appealed by more than 3,000 Filipino World War II veterans.
These are the priorities of the Philippine diplomatic mission to the United States for 2012, said Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose L. Cuisia Jr. during a luncheon he hosted Wednesday for the Filipino American media at the embassy’s Romulo Hall in Washington DC.
Cuisia, who has been on his new job just nine months, said Aquino’s US visit would foster closer and stronger ties between treaty partners the Philippines and the United States.
“I think President Aquino wants to see a stronger military and security alliance, particularly in maritime security,” Cuisia said, adding that objective could be the main theme of the visit.
There would be other important issues to be discussed, Cuisia said, including fostering economic and investment ties, fiscal reforms or improving tax collections, good governance and food security.
Cuisia said the timing of the visit would depend on the schedules of both President Barrack Obama and Aquino.
“It will be an official visit sometime in May or June if not earlier. It’s still being worked out,” he said.
Cuisia expressed confidence on the future of the SAVE Act in 2012. He explained that despite the challenges ahead, the support of key US government officials and the Filipino American community is vital to ensure the passage of the bill.
“I feel optimistic about this because of the lead support of Sen. Daniel Inouye and Congressman Jim McDermott and the community.
He stressed that the passage of the Save Act would enable the Philippines to recover more than 300,000 jobs in the garments and apparel industry while expanding US exports of textile and fabrics the Manila.
Cuisia also gave the 20 members of the press present during the luncheon, an update on the Filipino WWII Veterans benefit. He said the embassy is helping some 3,600 veterans whose claims were denied due various reasons, including incomplete records of their claimants service records and even technical errors caused by change or names of some who have acquired American citizenship.
He said the Department of the Army and the US Veterans Administration have been supportive in the claims reconsideration, a process which could take time.
“We are doing our best to help the veterans get what is due them,” he said.
The Ambassador also appealed to the media to help in urging ethnic Filipinos to be more involved in the exercise of their political rights.
He noted that in 2008, only 270,000 or less than 10 percent of the estimated 3.2 million to 3.5 million FilAms in the US, including an estimated 1.4 million in California.
“Filipino Americans should be more involved because if you want to have a voice you have to be register and vote,” he said.
“One congressman has told me that if the Filipinos people would only realize what they can do, you can be the most powerful ethnic minority in America,” he added.
Ambassador Cuisia underscored the importance of remaining positive and looking out for other opportunities especially during these tough economic times.
“Many of the FilAms have good jobs but with current economic weakness, the impact is still being felt by all,” he said. “We are hoping for a better recovery and it is happening slowly.”
The US-trained Cuisia said he would be coming to Manila for the Christmas holidays to meet with the President and visit his family.
“I terribly miss my two grandchildren,” said Cuisia, who admitted that being away from his children and grandchildren family is one of the sacrifices in a diplomat’s job.
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