MANILA, Philippines — The United States has yet to receive a request for help from former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in her bid to travel and seek medical treatment abroad.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that if ever such a request was received, Washington would have to take a look at it. She is here on a one-day visit to reaffirm US support for the Philippines.
The Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order Tuesday, allowing the former president and now Pampanga Rep. Arroyo, along with her husband, to leave the country. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima however said they had filed a motion for reconsideration, and that pending decision on it, the Arroyos would have to be barred from leaving.
Clinton evaded the question initially and said it was inappropriate for her to comment on an internal matter. On other topics ranging from her personal life to her opinions on the country’s national defense, however, she was more open and candid.
Asked about the Spratlys, Clinton told journalists, students, and celebrities gathered in the National Museum that her government wants “to see a peaceful region where everyone can work together without intimidation or coercion.”
She said the US speaks with China with outright honesty. They are supportive but are able to directly tell the Asian Super Power when it is doing something wrong.
“We welcome China’s peaceful rise,” she said, but the US prefers a peaceful Asia.
China, along with the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam, claim in whole or in part a group of islands, reefs and atolls in the South China Sea referred to as the Spratlys. Nansha islands to the Chinese, the Spratlys are said to be situated above valuable oil and gas reserves.
On behalf of the US, Clinton also commended the country’s progress in the fight against human trafficking, “It is so important to stand up and speak against it,” she said.
Because of the huge steps that the Philippines has taken in various fields, it was chosen for a partnership program that President Barack Obama just started.
Clinton said that Obama chose only four nations for his Partnership for Growth initiative, a joint Philippine-US undertaking that promotes and supports broad-based economic growth of emerging markets. The country is the only one from Asia chosen to be among the pilot countries.
“We’re betting on you,” said Clinton. “This has to be the Philippines’ time.”
Right to expression
The mood in the room was jovial, light. Until a protester stood up midway, holding a banner calling the Mutual Defense Treaty junk.
A brief silence befell the crowd but the atmosphere immediately shifted back after Clinton laughed it off.
“I think people have the right to express themselves; that’s what democracy is about,” she said. She made sure to say, however, that she disagreed with the protester.
During the 45-minute talk, Clinton also said that the huge number of Filipinos online is a powerful tool for change. She mentioned that she is not interested in running for President again or Vice President, and is excited for life beyond politics.
She expressed her love for the Philippines and left the crowd with a challenge.
“I challenge each of you to think of the role you can play to help your country,” she said. “My hope is to come back in ten years, and ten years after that, and to see many positive changes.”
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