"American presence has helped the country immensely."
With centuries of colonial rule in the country, the Philippines has retained some foreign influences in its culture and society—from trade with the Chinese, colonization and Christianization by the Spaniards, rule of the Americans, and occupation by the Japanese. While our history is rich with narratives of battles for freedom, we cannot deny the fact that foreign rule made certain positive contributions to the evolution and development of society.
Among our colonizers, the United States has been a consistent presence in the country since our independence. Our relations with the United States has flourished throughout the years. US-Philippines trade relations have been established since 1909 and was further strengthened by the Bell Trade Act, as amended by the Laurel-Langley Agreement. Since then, our agriculture and manufacturing industries have grown immensely. Technological innovations were able to flow in and information exchange became a significant tool in the improvement of our industries. This opened doors to more foreign trade and investment.
Tourism was also bolstered by the good relations between the US and the Philippines. The Americans comprise one of the major tourist groups in the country annually. Similarly, Filipinos are one of the biggest Asian migrant groups in the US. At present, there are roughly 4 million Filipinos in the US. Migration to the US has allowed Filipinos to find better economic opportunities and gainful employment. Reports show that the US was the biggest source of remittances, accounting for 37.7 percent of cash remittances by Filipino workers in November 2019. These remittances were already proven to have greatly contributed to our annual GDP growth.
Numerous agreements were entered into, for the past decades, by the Philippines and the United States which provide for mutual support and assistance to many government programs and projects. Among the areas of concern are health, education, national security, peace and order, protection of natural resources, anti-terrorism, and military advancement. We have also been recipient of humanitarian assistance from the US especially after the ravages of natural disasters such as Typhoon ‘‘Yolanda’’ and the Taal eruption.
This amicable relations with the United States led to the establishment of the largest overseas military base of the US in the country, the US Naval Base in Subic Bay which was later on closed and abandoned due to the Pinatubo eruption in 1991. Despite this, we have received military assistance and training from US troops. For a long time, US troops have aided our armed forces in wiping out terrorist groups in Mindanao. They have provided us intelligence and surveillance assistance especially in subduing the Abu Sayyaf and the Maute groups. The US military assistance program also led to the acquisition of patrol and auxiliary vessels such as the BRP Gregorio del Pilar which has been helpful in maintaining guard over the waters in the Scarborough Shoal, and patrol aircrafts in the past years.
The US presence has helped the country. I am still hopeful that we can arrive at an amicable solution, resolve our differences and maintain a healthy diplomatic relationship for our mutual benefit.