WASHINGTON, D.C. – “While many people still look at the bilateral relations [between the Philippines and the United States] through the prism of our earlier colonial history, I firmly believe our partnership has evolved into one of equals, bound not just by our shared history but a mutuality of interests.”
This was how Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. opened his presentation before the students and faculty members of the US Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island on 26 October 2015.
The Philippines’ top envoy to the United States dissected the different facets of the long-standing bilateral relationship, underscoring challenges and opportunities in advancing cooperation particularly in the political-security and economic fields.
“Over 60 years after concluding the Mutual Defense Treaty, the Asia Pacific region has emerged as a region with the most robust economic growth and the most complex of security challenges. The Philippines and the US can and should continue to work together to seize opportunities and address the challenges,” Ambassador Cuisia said with regard to the political-security cooperation between the two countries.
He also cited the “overwhelming and timely” action of the US military in the search, rescue and relief operations in the aftermath of super typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. Following Haiyan’s destruction, the United States deployed more than 50 aircraft and ships and over 1,000 marines and soldiers to help transport relief supplies and to evacuate over 21,000 people from some of the hardest-hit areas. Including assistance from USAID and the US private sector, the total estimated value of aid from the US government and the American people stood at around $146 million.
The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) aims to institutionalize cooperation in humanitarian assistance and disaster response, as well as help upgrade the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and develop the Philippines’ maritime security and maritime domain awareness.
Speaking on the Philippines’ arbitration case against China on the issue of the South China Sea, the envoy commented, “Many have asked me what will happen if China does not abide by the decision of the Tribunal. I believe and maintain that by resorting to a recognized body under UNCLOS, whatever the outcome and whatever the action by the other party, judgments will create a political reality that is almost impossible to ignore. Having an impartial third party rule on a case holds weight because one side will have the backing of international law.”
Under economic cooperation, Ambassador Cuisia credited the US’ inclusion of the Philippines in the Partnership for Growth and the Millennium Challenge Corporation initiatives for helping the country attain economic growth and development. He also noted that while the Philippines enjoys a trade surplus with the US, “we believe that there is room for more trade that will bring jobs to both our peoples and expand prosperity.”
The Ambassador reiterated the Philippines’ commitment to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), acknowledging that the regional, free-trade arrangement is the “economic face of the rebalance to Asia strategy.”
“The Philippines appreciates the strategic importance of potentially being a participant in what would be significant regional free-trade arrangements. The Philippines’ ambitions to become part of these high-caliber trade networks, or as some have put it the ‘big league’ of international trading partners, has so far manifested in domestic economic reforms and confidence building measures that parallel the high standards requirements of these multilateral agreements,” Ambassador Cuisia said.
He concluded the lecture by describing the relationship between the two countries as “a partnership of equals with two friends moving in one direction on account of its shared goals.”
During his two-day visit in Rhode Island—his first in the “Smallest State”—the Ambassador held separate meetings with Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Governor Gina Raimondo and Newport Mayor Gene Napolitano. He likewise joined members of the Filipino-American community for a “Philippine Night” and engaged Filipino students currently training at Hyatt Regency Newport. He was accompanied by Philippine Consul General Mario L. De Leon, Jr. and Col. Orlando M. Suarez of the Defense and Armed Forces Affairs Office of the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C.
The US Naval War College is the Staff College and “Home for Thought” of the United States Navy. It is presently headed by Rear Admiral Philip Gardner Howe III, who is the first Navy SEAL officer to serve as president of the college. Vice Admiral Mateo Mayuga, Rear Admiral Alexander Pama and Vice Admiral Jesus Millan are some of the notable Philippine Navy’s Flag Officers in command who received further training and education from the US Naval War College.
The Philippines and the United States will mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic relations next year. ###