US, Australia hail PH reforms under Aquino
MANILA, Philippines—The United States and Australia on Tuesday hailed reform gains by the Aquino administration and vowed to further expand longstanding ties with the Philippines as the country marked 115 years of independence.
US Secretary of State John Kerry called the Philippines “an important democracy and strategic partner” in the Asia-Pacific (region) and expressed the United States’ commitment to help the country in pursuing its reform program.
“Today, our two countries enjoy ever-broadening cooperation on challenges from countering extremism to strengthening economic ties,” Kerry said in a message sent by the US Embassy in Manila.
“Through our Partnership for Growth, we can help sustain the Philippines’ impressive economic growth and our joint efforts in the Open Government Partnership are advancing good governance, accountability, and vibrant civil societies,” he said.
Kerry cited the “enduring alliance” between the Philippines and the United States, with links not just historical—the United States colonized the Philippines until after World War II—but more so personal.
The former US senator was in Manila in 1986 as an observer in the snap election preceding the Edsa People Power Revolution that toppled strongman Ferdinand Marcos from power.
Order of Sikatuna
The Order of Sikatuna, the highest diplomatic merit that the Philippine government bestowed on Kerry two years ago, now hangs in Kerry’s office at the Department of State in Washington.
“On this special day, as Filipinos around the world come together to celebrate, I wish you a joyous Independence Day and a prosperous future,” Kerry said.
Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Bill Tweddell noted the “shared aspiration for peace, freedom and cooperation” between Manila and Canberra as he lauded President Aquino for the country’s gains through good government, public service and economic performance.
“The Aquino administration has achieved balanced budgets and judicial reform, passed legislation extending basic education and reproductive health rights, and negotiated a framework peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The success of these reforms can be measured by your recent economic growth,” Tweddell said.
Filipinos in Australia
He also hailed Filipino migrants in Australia as the country’s modern heroes, noting their contributions to Australian society.
Filipinos started migrating to Australia back in the 1890s as pearl divers, Tweddell said.
Currently, there are 200,000 Filipinos in Australia, among them doctors, nurses, accountants and engineers.
“These working professionals—in the Philippines and overseas—are the Philippines’ modern heroes. I believe Jose Rizal and Emilio Aguinaldo would be very proud indeed of your successes,” Tweddell said.
The Philippines and Australia have maintained ties for nearly 70 years, and Canberra has been a steady partner in trade, aid and security.
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