UK’s top diplomat to visit PH, hails peace

Paterno Esmaquel II
Minister William Hague's country has actively supported the Mindanao peace process and has pledged the highest foreign aid for Yolanda rehabilitation

UK'S TOP DIPLOMAT. British Foreign Secretary William Hague (left) talks to journalists next to Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo (far right) after their meeting in Jakarta on Jan 28, 2014. Photo by Adek Berry/AFP

MANILA, Philippines – The top diplomat of the United Kingdom will visit the Philippines on Thursday, January 30, days after a breakthrough in the Mindanao peace process that his country actively supported.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague will arrive in the Philippines after his local counterpart, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, invited him.

Del Rosario made the invitation even before the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed a historic arms deal Saturday, January 25.

“I am also delighted to be in Manila just a few days after the successful conclusion of negotiations on a comprehensive peace agreement in Mindanao, to welcome this significant step and meet some of those involved,” Hague said in a statement Tuesday, January 28.

The UK describes itself as a “firm supporter of the Mindanao peace process.” It sits as a member of the International Contact Group, which includes Japan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and international non-governmental organizations to observe peace negotiations in Kuala Lumpur.

Top donor after Yolanda

The UK supported the Philippines not only in the peace process but also in rebuilding after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

In fact, it has pledged the highest amount of foreign aid for Yolanda survivors – P4.347 billion ($96.354 million), according to the Philippine government’s Foreign Aid Transparency Hub.

The United States, the Philippines’ strategic partner, has pledged the second highest amount at P2.786 billion ($61.764 million).

“As seen by the overwhelming international response to Typhoon Yolanda, of which the UK was proud to be a leading part, the Philippines and Filipinos have many friends,” Hague said.

“I am determined that the UK will continue to be one of them – a friend in times of need, and a long-term partner in prosperity, helping build trade and investment, increasingly working together abroad to ensure that the values we share can be enjoyed by many more around the world,” the foreign secretary added.

During his day-long visit, Hague will meet with President Benigno Aquino III, Vice President Jejomar Binay, and Del Rosario.

The British official “will also deliver a major speech” on the UK’s relationship with Asia. This will include his views on how the Association of Southeast Asian Nations “should evolve to meet the challenges of the Asian Century.”

On Thursday, Hague becomes the first UK foreign secretary and most senior Cabinet member to visit the Philippines since 1997. – Rappler.com

Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.