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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Speaker hails stronger defense, economic ties between US, Philippines

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House Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez has cited the importance of strengthening defense and economic cooperation between the Philippines and the United States.

During the reception for members of the US-Philippines Friendship Caucus at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C on Wednesday evening (US time), Romualdez said he was happy to be back in the US capital to engage in discussions with US lawmakers and other officials on the various aspects of the relations between the two countries and the complex challenges confronting them.

“As we navigate these challenges, strengthening our defense and economic ties becomes even more crucial,” the leader of the 309-strong Philippine House of Representatives said.

The US group who attended the event consisted of the following: Reps. Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan of Northern Mariana Islands, Robert Scott of Virginia, Don Bacon of Nebraska, James Moylan of Guam, and Darrell Issa of California.

During his official visit to the United States, Speaker Romualdez also met Sen. Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, Sen. Christopher Van Hollen of Maryland, Rep. Gary Palmer of Alabama, Rep. Ami Bera of California, Rep. James R. Baird of Indiana, Rep. Ed Case of Hawaii, and Rep. Brad Sherman of California.

Romualdez said the Philippines appreciates the support of the United States and its allies in the region and in Europe in confronting the challenges in the West Philippine Sea.

“Such support, even just in the form of expressions of concern, is invaluable to us in bolstering our defense of our sovereignty, our territorial integrity and maritime domain,” he added.

The House leader pointed out that in the case of the United States, its support extends to military assistance, including joint patrols and other activities, and humanitarian missions.

“We are happy for all the assistance aimed at helping modernize our Armed Forces and boost our civilian law enforcement capabilities,” Speaker Romualdez said.

He stressed that expanding economic cooperation is important as well to help the Philippines sustain its economic growth.

Romualdez said the reauthorization of the Generalized System of Preferences would facilitate duty-free access of Philippine export products to the US market, which exports previously were valued at more than $2 billion annually.

Such exports not only supported jobs in the Philippines but benefited US consumers in terms of product accessibility and reasonable prices, he said.

The Speaker told his delegation’s US counterparts that he looks forward to more dialogues with them in expanding their collaboration to enhance their two nation’s relations, particularly in the area of defense and economic cooperation.

Aside from the Speaker, the Philippine delegation included Senior Deputy Speaker Aurelio Gonzales Jr., Deputy Speaker David “

Suarez, Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe, Agusan del Norte Rep. Jose Aquino ll, House Secretary General Reginald Velasco, Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez, Ambassador to Japan Mylene Garcia-Albano, House Sergeant-at-Arms PMGen. Napoleon

Taas (ret), and House Deputy Secretary Generals Jennifer Baquiran, David Robert Amorin, and Sofonias Gabonada Jr., and other House officials and Philippine embassy officers.

Romualdez’s engagement with US lawmakers followed last week’s successful trilateral summit among US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.

The meeting with members of the US-Philippines Friendship Caucus is part of the Speaker’s official visit to the US.

Two years ago, the House and the Senate hosted US Caucus members who visited the Philippines.

During his series of meetings, Speaker Romualdez sought the expansion of joint military exercises in the Philippines, appealed for an increased United States (US) foreign military financing (FMF), welcomed the Philippines Enhanced Resilience Act of 2024 (PERA Act),

Romualdez has proposed increasing United States foreign military financing (FMF) to the Philippines from $40 million.

He also expressed his “deep gratitude” to Hagerty, a Republican, and Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, a Democrat, for introducing in the US Senate the PERA of 2024, a bill that seeks $500 million a year in FMF for the Philippines for 2025 through 2029, or a total of $2.5 billion for five years.

The bipartisan measure was introduced last Tuesday, April 10, a day before the trilateral summit in Washington D.C. of US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.

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