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US and PH: friends, partners, allies

05:05 AM July 04, 2018

Every July 4, the United States and the Philippines celebrate Philippine-American Friendship Day. That makes this a particularly important moment to reflect on the depth and breadth of the US-Philippine relationship as friends, partners and allies.

The US-Philippine friendship is built on shared sacrifices and shared values, as well as deep people-to-people ties. There are more than 300,000 US citizens in the Philippines at any given time, and an estimated 4 million Filipino-Americans. Nearly every person I have met has a family member in the US, and we also share deep, long-standing educational linkages.

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It was an honor to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the formation of the Philippine-American Educational Foundation earlier this year. Among its many contributions to our enduring friendship is the Philippine Fulbright program, which has sponsored two-way exchanges for more than 4,200 US and Filipino scholars, among them some of the Philippines’ highest achieving artists, scientists and public servants.

As we think about friendship and family, we naturally want to protect future generations. As one example, we partner with the Philippine Dangerous Drugs Board to fight the scourge of illicit drugs through community programs and drug demand reduction. Another highlight is that, over the last decade, USAID has provided more than P4 billion to support the Philippines’ goal of eliminating tuberculosis by 2035. Today, more Filipinos have access to state-of-the-art TB treatment and protection services than ever before.

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The US-Philippine partnership has demonstrated its importance time and again. Our support in the period since the end of the fighting in Marawi offers many powerful examples. Alumni of US government exchanges from Mindanao were on the front lines of efforts to address the needs of displaced people. Through our yearlong P18.5 million #ForMindanao campaign, these alumni are developing projects to address the immediate needs of an estimated 13,500 Mindanaoan students, out-of-school youth and women, as well as tackling the root causes of violent extremism.

USAID has also been incredibly active in Mindanao, providing immediate and extensive humanitarian assistance, working with local governments and Philippine government departments to provide life-saving services to internally displaced persons.

The US remains one of the Philippines’ closest economic partners, exchanging more than P940 billion in goods last year. And the US is among the Philippines’ top four foreign investors: US businesses have invested approximately P235 billion in the Philippines. The US company Convergys is the largest single private employer in the Philippines. The largest exporter, Texas Instruments, is a US company. And some of the largest taxpayers are also US companies, such as Chevron.

Our bilateral alliance, meanwhile, is most evident in our long tradition of military training and defense cooperation. The ties between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the US military, which go back to World War II, have contributed to regional stability for decades. During annual exercises like Balikatan and KAMANDAG, our militaries build capabilities by focusing on counterterrorism, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and a host of other missions.

The Philippines is the largest recipient of US military assistance in the region, supporting the AFP’s modernization goals. In the past few years, the US has delivered millions of dollars of planes, ships, armored vehicles and small arms to the Philippines.

Earlier this year, the US delivered a Scan Eagle Unmanned Aerial System worth P687 million to the Philippine Air Force. Last month, the US provided personal protective equipment worth P178 million to the Philippine Marine Special Operations Group. Last year, the US also donated two Cessna 208B air intelligence and surveillance aircraft, which have enhanced counterterrorism capabilities and protected AFP members engaged in counterterrorism operations.

I have been honored to serve as US ambassador to the Philippines for a year and a half. In that period, we have built on more than 70 years of working constructively for the benefit of both our countries, and I expect that relationship to continue for decades to come. It is clear to me that our future is brightest when our countries remain the closest of friends, partners and allies.

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Sung Kim is the US ambassador to the Philippines.

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TAGS: Inquirer Commentary, Philippine-American Educatonal Foundation, Philippine-american friendship day, Sung Kim, US-Philippines relations
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