PRES. AQUINO THANKS US FOR MILITARY ASSISTANCE AMID WPS TENSION

MANILA –- A day after United States Pres. Barack Obama announced that the US will give two ships to the Philippine Navy, Pres. Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday thanked the United States for the military assistance amid tension in the disputed West Philippine Sea (WPS).

”We recognize, with the deepest appreciation, the significant contribution to our efforts by the United States – contributions that help us ensure that we can ably respond to current security challenges, particularly in the area of maritime security and maritime domain awareness,” Pres. Aquino said in a joint press conference after the Aquino-Obama bilateral meeting at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza.

Pres. Aquino said the Philippines, being a treaty ally of the United States, receives security assistance from the US government, particularly through Foreign Military Financing (FMF).

The Filipino leader also thanked the US for advocacy on upholding the rule of the law on the WPS.

”I take this opportunity to reiterate the Philippines’ view that the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea must be continuously upheld, consistent with international law,” he said.

The Philippines also thanked the US for supporting the construction of the National Coast Watch Center, a project discussed during Pres. Aquino’s first visit to Washington DC in 2012.

”Our administration is pleased to see it come to fruition this year,” Pres. Aquino said.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the Philippines is strong and will continue to be enhanced through joint exercises and by working with multilateral organizations.

The two leaders also reaffirmed their treaty alliance, the strategic partnership and the historic friendship between the Philippines and the US.

”I am confident that this firm foundation of broad cooperation and shared values will enable the Philippines and the United States to face the challenges of the present and those in the decades to come,” Pres. Aquino said.

The two leaders also discussed a number of avenues of cooperation particularly the Philippine Strategic Trade Management Act (STMA) which will enforce measures to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) from or within the Philippines.

”It is in fulfillment of our international obligations. We look forward to its implementation upon the completion of domestic procedures,” Pres. Aquino said.

They also exchanged views on cybersecurity threats with the Philippines expressing support of the US efforts on countering violent extremism.

On the economic front, Pres. Aquino welcomed the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnerships (TPP), hoping that the US, as the lead negotiator of the TPP, will support the Philippines’ possible accession to the Agreement.

Pres. Aquino said he also discussed with Pres. Obama the issues concerning climate change as they look forward to fruitful discussions at the COP21 in Paris later this November.

”As a country highly vulnerable to climate and disaster risks, the Philippines underscores the importance of all countries contributing to the global effort to address the problem of climate change for the benefit of future generations,” Pres. Aquino said.

The two leaders also pledged to ensure strengthened defense cooperation and increase mutual prosperity “but also to foster more meaningful ties between our people.” Jelly F. Musico /PNA