PHL advances China sea dispute, other issues with US lawmakers

Friday, March 18th, 2016. Filed under: Local News
Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr., Philippine Acting Secretary of Justice Emmanuel L. Caparas and US Department of State Counselor Kristie Kenney. (Photo taken on March 16, 2016 in Washington, D.C)

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr., Philippine Acting Secretary of Justice Emmanuel L. Caparas and US Department of State Counselor Kristie Kenney. (Photo taken on March 16, 2016 in Washington, D.C)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Philippine Government officials engaged US legislators on 15-16 March 2016 to mobilize Congressional support for key Philippine advocacies in the United States.

On 15 March, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. and Acting Secretary of Justice Emmanuel L. Caparas led the Philippine delegation in separate meetings with Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) and Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), respectively.

The Philippine officials noted the SFRC’s instrumental role in sustaining US interest in the Asia-Pacific region and in giving substance to the rebalance policy.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has been very influential in the decision-making process of the current US Administration. We recognize the considerable impact that the Committee’s initiatives has had on increasing US foreign military financing (FMF) to the Philippines and in ensuring that the United States continues to be engaged in our region,” said Ambassador Cuisia.

Senator Corker observed the importance of raising FMF in view of China’s behavior.

On the other hand, Senator Cardin reiterated that while the US maintains its neutrality with regard to the South China Sea dispute, his country takes a strong position against provocative actions. He also expressed his firm belief in the rule of law and recognized the leadership of the Philippines in developing a regional Code of Conduct.

Representative Randy Forbes (R-VA), a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and a member of the US-Philippines Friendship Caucus, largely echoed the views of his colleagues in the Senate.

In a statement last 07 March, Rep. Forbes scored China’s recent actions in the South China Sea and reaffirmed the importance of the alliance between the US and the Philippines to the maintenance of peace and prosperity in the region.

“China’s behavior in the Asia-Pacific has undermined regional stability and unnecessarily antagonized the Philippines and other partners in the region. The United States has an obligation under its decades-old security treaty with the Philippines to resist acts of aggression against our ally,” a portion of the statement read.

When they met with Rep. Forbes on 16 March, the Philippine officials expressed appreciation to the Congressman for leading efforts to impel the US Administration to take the necessary steps in safeguarding the rule of law in the Asia-Pacific.

Rep. Forbes expressed the opinion that the United States needs to be more present in the South China Sea and that joint patrols would be “hugely important, helpful and useful.”

The Philippines’ campaign to combat trafficking in persons was likewise discussed with the Senators. Senator Corker remarked that TIP, commonly described as “modern-day slavery,” should not have a place in today’s world.

The meetings with the US lawmakers also aimed to shore up greater support for a bill seeking to award a Congressional Gold Medal, collectively, to the more than 260,000 Filipino veterans of World War II.

The bill entitled “Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015,” was introduced in the House (HR 2737) and the Senate (S 1555) in June 2015. Senator Cardin and Representative Forbes are among the bill’s co-sponsors.

The bill includes a historical account of the dedicated service of Filipino and Filipino American servicemen and service women during World War II and recognizes them for their courage, bravery, and valor as they served under the command of the United States Armed Forces of the Far East.

“As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of Philippines-US relations this year, let us remember that ours is a friendship forged by the experience of fighting side by side in wars for liberation. It is our fervent hope that our longstanding ties will only grow stronger over time and that our veterans receive the recognition they deserve,” Ambassador Cuisia stated.

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