US vows strong PH ties 'whoever wins' presidency

MANILA, Philippines – The United States on Wednesday, November 9, vowed a strong relationship with the Philippines whoever wins the American presidency. 

In an interview with reporters, US chargé d'affaires Michael Klecheski said: "Whoever wins this election, our country will value the ties with the Philippines, as it has over all these many decades. And that, I can say with full confidence."

He added: "Our relationship over the years, over the decades, has been extremely strong, extremely close. We've been partners, we've been allies, and we've been friends." 

"We have a tremendous number of Americans living in the Philippines. We have a tremendous number of Filipino-Americans living in the United States. But much more than that, it’s also the fact that we've done a lot together. We work in so many areas cooperatively," Klecheski said.

Klecheski spoke on the sidelines of the US Election Watch party at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila.

The event gathered hundreds of government officials, experts, US embassy partners, and journalists waiting for the results of the US presidential election on Wednesday. 

The US election pits Hillary Clinton, a former US Secretary of State who is running to become the US' first woman president, and Donald Trump, a billionaire populist who has upended US politics with his improbable outsider campaign. (READ: Trump within reach of shock White House win)

Dealing with Duterte

As far as the Philippines is concerned, whoever wins will have to deal with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has vowed to move away from Washington and closer to Beijing. 

Duterte has also cursed at outgoing US President Barack Obama and has blasted the former US ambassador to the Philippines, Philip Goldberg, as "gay" and a "son of a bitch."

Goldberg is set to be replaced by Ambassador Sung Kim, a Korean-born diplomat who once served as US special representative for North Korea policy.

The Philippine government earlier hailed the US for naming an "Asian" ambassador to the Philippines.

Klecheski was asked on Wednesday if it was a "deliberate decision" by the US to name an ambassador to Manila "with an Asian heritage."

Klecheski said: "Ambassador-designate Kim is an American, just like me. I'm a Polish American. He's a Korean American. But the bottom line is that he is representing the United States and that's the critical factor." 

He said of Kim, "We're looking forward to his arrival here." – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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