Aquino receives US lawmakers in Malacanang

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

MANILA -- President Benigno Aquino III welcomed Wednesday visiting members of a United States congressional delegation in Malacanang wherein they discussed several State matters, such as, economy, maritime dispute and the recent incident in Tubbataha involving a US Navy vessel.

Emerging from the almost one hour courtesy call, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the US delegation, led by California Congressman Edward Royce, expressed support for the Philippines move in bringing its territorial dispute with China before a United Nations arbitration body.

"The US delegation supported the position of the President in bringing the dispute to the UN arbitral tribunal, consistent with our policy of maintaining a peaceful resolution to the West Philippine Sea dispute," Lacierda said.

He said President Aquino explained to the US lawmakers the country's position why it had to bring the case to the arbitral tribunal.

The Palace official, however, clarified that it was only an "expression of support" and no specific action to be taken by the US government was discussed.

Royce, who is the chairman of the House committee on foreign affairs, is in the country for a three-day visit together with ranking member of the congressional delegation namely Eliot Engel (New York), Gregory Meeks (New York), Vern Buchanan (Florida), Matthew James "Matt" Salmon (Arizona), and Thomas Anthony "Tom" Marino (Pennsylvania).

Lacierda said the lawmakers have also expressed regret over the grounding of the USS Guardian on the Tubbataha Reef that caused damage on the protected marine sanctuary. The US Navy minesweeper is still stuck on the Unesco World Heritage Site while the US and Philippine governments are discussing the best possible way to extricate the ship from the reef.

In return, President Aquino thanked Royce for co-sponsoring the Save Our Industries Act or Save Act, a bill that would allow apparel products manufactured in the Philippines using US made fabrics to enter to the United States duty free.

"The President also mentioned about the Philippine economy. He also mentioned to them that yesterday (Tuesday) we had the 72nd Philippine Stock Exchange Index high. That's the 72nd in our administration, in the administration of President Aquino, and I think the 11th in 2013 PSEI," Lacierda further said.

He noted that the discussion focused on trade and business opportunities and how the Philippines would strengthen their economic ties with US.

"So they're very bullish about the economy. Congressman Buchanan of Florida was, in fact, mentioning that we should have more opportunities to explore," he said.

The lawmakers, likewise, commended the government on its effort to combat corruption, added Lacierda.

The courtesy call of the US Congressional delegation was followed by the visit of a Filipino-American mayor of Daly City Raymond Buenaventura.
Lacierda said the President also shared to Mayor Buenaventura the reforms that the government has undertaken for the past years.
The Chief Executive also received a symbolic key of Daly City from Buenaventura. (Jill Beltran/Sunnex)

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