US affirms 'ironclad' commitment to defend PH
MANILA, Philippines – US President Barack Obama says the defense deal marks a “new chapter” in the alliance between the Philippines and the US.
He was vague and noncommittal on day 1, when asked about defending the Philippines against external threats. But the President, known for his social media savvy, fine tunes his message on day 2. He now says “friends never stand alone.”
Carmela Fonbuena reports.
BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENT: Hello everybody! Please have a seat. Kumusta kayo? (How are you?)
A day after the signing of a new military deal with the Philippines, US President Barack Obama gathers Filipino and American troops. literally shoulder to shoulder. It’s a long history of cooperation dating as far back as the World War 2.
BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENT: To our Filipino armed forces -- thank you for being such an outstanding ally. Together, you are helping to secure the prosperity and peace of both our nations.
Obama says joint operations in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda captures the strength of the US-Philippines alliance.
BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENT: I want to leave you with an incredible story that captures the strength of our alliance. What few people realize is that it started all with a single aircraft carrying a handful of Filipino and American troops and civilians. The storm hit land that Friday. The very next morning, the first aircraft took off -- a Philippine C-130 carrying Captain Roy Trinidad, a Philippine Navy SEAL; Colonel Mike Wylie, United States Marines; and Major George Hapalisok, U.S. Air Force. They worked together -- Filipinos and Americans -- setting up a medical station, clearing debris from the runway, reopening that airport. Our troops worked together to help local residents aboard so that they could be evacuated to safety. And over and over, those grateful Filipinos responded with a simple word -- salamat. (Thank you.) I want them to stand again and accept our thanks. We are proud of their outstanding service.
ROY TRINIDAD, PHILIPPINE NAVY CAPTAIN: It surprised us. To be mentioned. It was not part of the game plan but you know for us it’s just another day in the office. Just another job to do. People recognize you maraming salamat po. Kung wala, walang hinanakit trabaho lang ito. (People recognize you? Thank you very much. If they don’t, there are no hard feelings. This is just work.)
The Philippines used to host large American bases. There were tens of thousands of American troops here until the Senate in 1991 voted to evict them. Still, the ties between the Philippines and US militaries did not end. The new enhanced defense cooperation brings that relationship to a new level.
The new threat is China and this is why the Philippines wants increased US presence. On day 1, Obama evades the question of how far will the US go to defend the Philippines.
But in front of the troops, Obama sends out a stronger message upholding US commitment.
BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENT: This treaty means our two nations pledge -- and I’m quoting -- our “common determination to defend themselves against external armed attacks, so that no potential aggressor could be under the illusion that either of them stands alone. In other words, our commitment to defend the Philippines is ironclad and the United States will keep that commitment, because allies never stand alone."
Critics are expected to bring the deal to the Supreme Court to question its constitutionality. But the government is confident it will hurdle legal challenges.
Carmela Fonbuena Rappler, Taguig. – Rappler.com