US willing to 'constructively' discuss changes in PH ties
MANILA, Philippines – The US is willing to discuss "constructively" with the Philippines possible changes in its relationship with its longtime ally, according to outgoing US ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg.
"I would only say that we want to look towards the future and to the well-being of both our peoples. If there are changes that are suggested, we can constructively talk about it," Goldberg told reporters on Monday, October 24, on the sidelines of the formal turnover of a C130 cargo plane that Manila had bought from Washington.
US top officials are in the Philippines to clarify the policy direction of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has subjected the country's ally to sustained tirades. (READ: US to Yasay: Duterte tirades stir 'consternation')
'Strong commitment to Philippine defense'
Goldberg said the US remains committed to its defense commitment to the Philippines.
"We are seeking clarification because for our part, we have a very strong sense that the Philipines is an ally and a friend. We have a strong committment to its defense through our Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and also through all the cooperations that we have, today being an example of it but also the kinds of exercises and the kinds of different programs that we have under way including the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). Those are the kinds of clarifications that we need," Goldberg said.
"Some of the language we heard are not at all consistent with that constructive discussison," Goldberg added.
Duterte's scheduled meeting with US President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Laos in September was cancelled after he cursed Obama over US criticism of his war on drugs, a campaign that has been linked to more than 4,000 deaths.
Duterte's announcement in Beijing last week about his "separation from the US" triggered international attention. The President later clarified that he will not sever ties, but will chart a foreign policy that is independent of the US.
US, PH ties 'unbreakable'
Goldberg said ties between the US and the Philippines are "unbreakable," citing government-to-government and people-to-people links in areas of security and business.
The US and the Philippines are bound, under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), to come to each other's aid when their sovereignty are threatened. The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) allows the rotational presence of US troops in the Philippines a few years after the Philippine Senate voted to evict US bases here. The newly signed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) allows US troops to build facilities and preposition assets inside Philippine bases.
Goldberg also cited cooperation in the areas of climate change, terrorism, maritime security, and maritime domain awareness.
Goldberg said the US is the Philippines' largest foreign direct investor while American companies are among the largest exporters and largest private employers in the Philippines.
"Our links are really very, very strong on the military and security side, and some other areas. Even on the economic side, I think there are clarifications already on some of that. We need to explore it and we're willing to discuss it in a very constructive way," Goldberg reiterated.
There are 3.5 million Filipino Americans in the US and about 200,000 Americans in the Philippines. – Rappler.com