UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR to the Philippines Sung Kim is congratulated by Professor Alfred G Gabot (left) after his special lecture on US-Philippines Relations, part of the 50th Anniversary Lecture Series of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) under Dr. Leonora V. de Jesus, PLM President. No change in the deep-rooted relationship between the two countries despite the “colorful” language of President Rodrigo Duterte and similar colorful language of US President Donald Trump, Ambassador Kim insists, adding that US policy on US visa and immigration issuances for Filipinos are the same. (Photo by Ceejay Gone, PLM BMC IV-2)
By ALFRED G GABOT
Exclusive to Philippines Today USA
MANILA (PhilAmPress) — The United States and the Philippines have been major allies for years and the relationship remains the same and will continue to be the same despite some issues being brought to the fore affecting both countries and the “colourful language” of President Rodrigo Duterte as well as US President Donald Trump.
This was stressed by US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim during a special lecture on “US-Philippine Relations” at the Justo Albert Auditorium of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila led by president Dr. Leonora de Jesus and Executive Vice President Jose Silerio, part of the 50th foundation anniversary lecture series of the city university which is one of the country’s top universities now.
More than the “colourful language,” Ambassador Kim said “what is more important is what we are doing on the ground.”
“We hope to strengthen and deepen our alliance and all aspects of our relationship,” Kim said, adding the US-Philippine relationship will continue to be strong and “we will continue to be friends and allies.”
“Washington is committed to strengthening our special relationship,” he added.
Ambassador Kim made the statement hours before meeting President Duterte again in Malacanang where he reiterated that US government’s position on the Philippine war on drugs, human rights and terrorism which the envoy declared earlier in a meeting with Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano.
During the meeting, Duterte defended his war on drugs as the drug crackdown faces public backlash over the deaths of teenagers at the hands of policemen, adding that the campaign has been based on the rule of law and that he never condoned the killings of the teenagers, one of whom was even a relative.
Ambassador Kim, who had signed an agreement with Secretary Cayetano days before on the P102 million US government assistance to the Philippines campaign against illegal drugs, cited the need to investigate drug-related deaths “to ensure continued people’s confidence in the government.”
President Duterte also reiterated his commitment to end the “vicious and toxic” drug problem, which he said could destroy a “fragile Philippine Republic.”
The drugs war has become the subject of a rift between Duterte and US officials, including then US President Barack Obama, who have raised concerns over the alleged extrajudicial killing of suspected drug offenders.
Kim said the more than P102 million additional funding for the drugs campaign is from the Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. The funds will support Philippine initiatives to develop drug reduction programs focused on public health and community-based interventions, according to the US ambassador.
“The signing of this amendment marks a new step in the U.S.-Philippines partnership. Under this agreement, the United States and the Philippines will collaborate on areas ranging from treatment and prevention to policy development to support a comprehensive public health program focused on reducing the demand for drugs,” according to the statement issued during the signing.
The Philippines and the United States share concerns about the dangers posed by substance abuse disorder and this latest collaboration reflects a mutual interest in improving efforts to limit the effects of illicit drugs, the statement added.
In his speech during the signing with Secretary Cayetano, Ambassdor Kim said : “This Letter of Agreement, I think, reflects the depth of cooperation between our two countries. As the Secretary mentioned the relationship—the cooperation between our two countries — are long standing and very deep—and I fully expect that we will continue to strengthen the full range of cooperation between our two countries.”
“This particular LOA will expand our cooperation and efforts to deal with a very, very serious problem here. It will allow us to better support important initiatives such as national and community-based programs and prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation,” Ambassador Kim said.
“We share President Duterte’s concerns about the dangers posed by illicit drugs and substance abuse here,” he added. “The Secretary used, I think, an appropriate word to describe this, it is a real menace that affects the whole society so we want to do everything possible to effectively deal with this problem.”
Ambassador Kim said he was “delighted” to be at the PLM, acknowledging that it is one of the Philippines’ “prestigious universities,” then recited the importance of the strong relationship of the US and the Philippines, pointing out that the US is the country’s third largest trading partner.
Kim said that the Philippines, America’s oldest ally in Asia, accounts for more than four million Filipinos and Filipino Americans in the US.
On the other hand, more than 300,000 Americans are living and residing in the Philippines.
Kim said that despite perceived problems or perceived “misunderstanding” as a result of the “colourful language” of President Duterte on the US and officials, the US government’s position on its relationship with the Philippines “has not changed” and remains strong and “will continue to be strong.”
Also, Kim pointed out that US policy on the thousands of Filipinos applying for US visas and US immigration has “not changed” and will continue as such.
“There is no change in any way on the approval of US visas for Filipinos” going to the US for visits, business or as immigrants,” Kim said.
“There no need to worry” about the sudden change on immigration rules under President Trump for certain countries, since it does not affect the Philippines, he said.
Kim also revealed that the issue regarding the Balanginga bells is now being tackled and aired hopes that it will be resolved soon and the bells will be returned to the Balangiga church in Samar.
Kim disclosed that the US has extended $65 billion in assistance to the Philippines during the past six years, adding that the US government is committed to extended more assistance, including in the rehabilitation of Marawi City.
On the issue of DACA, Kim said that the US Congress is taking care of it through immigration reforms.