Gov't satisfied with US support over sea row – Malacanang

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

THE Aquino government is satisfied with the support it is getting from the United States, especially regarding the country's territorial dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), a Palace official said Wednesday.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said that statements of support from the US "have been encouraging and tend to affirm the cooperation and the partnership of both countries."

He said the government is also pleased with the actions the US has taken as these actions are "aligned with the pronouncements they have made."

In a recent trip to Japan, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the US remains committed to its defense treaty partners in Asia, including the Philippines, amid a more aggressive posturing of China in the region.

The Philippines continues to get American support in terms of beefing up its military capability through annual joint training exercises with US troops.

The Philippine military also recently acquired two ships from the US to strengthen its capability to patrol its coastline, especially in the West Philippine Sea.

US President Barack Obama is set to arrive in Manila on Monday for a two-day visit.

Coloma said the visit would provide President Benigno Aquino III and Obama "an opportunity to exchange views and their strategic vision for the 21st century and discuss new avenues to further strengthen the longstanding relations between the two countries by intensifying political and security cooperation, expanding trade and investments, tourism and development cooperation, and deepening people-to-people ties."

He further said that the meeting will allow the two leaders to "discuss continued cooperation on the rehabilitation of Yolanda-affected areas."

Coloma noted that Obama's visit is the peak of a series of recent high-level exchanges between the two countries.

Last year, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Hagel visited the Philippines. Early this year, US Senator and member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Marco Rubio, and US Congressman Ed Royce, who also chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives, visited Manila.

"The treaty alliance between the Philippines and the US has been a cornerstone of peace and stability in the region. The United States is the only defense treaty ally of the Philippines," Coloma said.

"This wide-ranging security partnership includes joint military exercises, such as Balikatan and humanitarian assistance and disaster response activities, to defense and security assistance that supports Philippine efforts toward achieving enhanced defense capabilities," he added.

Coloma also noted that the US continues to be the major trading partner of the country, with total trade amounting to US$14.5 billion in 2013. Last year, the US was the second largest export destination of the Philippines after Japan, with exports reaching US$7.8 billion.

"The US is one of the Philippines’ top sources of assistance. From 2011 up to 2013, US assistance to the Philippines has amounted to over a billion dollars. The development and military assistance covers a broad range of programs, from enhancing defense capabilities to supporting the good governance reform agenda, poverty reduction, and improving public infrastructure,” Coloma said.

He said that people-to-people ties are strong with an estimated 2.27 million Filipinos living in the United States, while thousands of US tourists visit the Philippines every year. In 2013, more than 670,000 American tourists visited the Philippines.

"The visit of President Obama affirms the vigor of our strategic partnership and alliance, and the strength of our people-to-people ties," Coloma said. (SDR/Sunnex)

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