MANILA, Philippines – United States Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr. on Wednesday said that amid countries’ territorial disputes over areas in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), the US would remain firm to its commitment under its Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) ties with the Philippines, and its plan to reposition its military forces in the Asia Pacific region.
“Rising tensions is in no one’s interest but, as Secretary Hillary
Clinton has stated, we are a Pacific nation, the United States, we stand
by our Mutual Defense Treaty,” Thomas said.
Speaking at the at a Makati Business Club’s (MBC) general membership
meeting on the topic The Significance of the Philippines – United States
Alliance in a Volatile Pacific Region, Thomas said: “We have made a
re-balance or re-pivot to ASIA on all sides and that will continue.”
Thomas, in his speech and in interviews with reporters at the
sidelines of the meet, reiterated the United States’ position of having
peaceful resolutions to the disputes in accordance with international
He added that the West Philippine Sea issue was something that the US
worked out on a daily business with concerned Philippine government
officials, but that they called on all nation states to “sit and decide
on things at the negotiating table.”
“We don’t want to further escalate tensions; we want peaceful
resolution of tensions but we want all countries to live up to their
agreements and that is why we support the Code of Conduct between China
and Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). We think this is a
better way to resolve this,” Thomas said.
Tensions in the West Philippine Sea, internationally known as South
China Sea, have been rising in the recent months, with countries’
contesting their claims over the area, and China deploying its ships
around the Scarborough Shoal.
Apart from China, the Philippines, Brunei Malaysia and Vietnam, and Taiwan claim parts of the sea.
Manila has been pushing for diplomatic, legal and political solution
to the dispute, which began when maritime authorities caught Chinese
fishermen reportedly poaching in the disputed waters.
China claims sovereignty over nearly all of the West Philippine Sea,
which is believed to sit atop vast amounts of oil and gas, is one of the
region’s most important fishing grounds, and is home to shipping lanes
that are vital to global trade.
Asked about the specifics of the US plan to rebuild its forces in
Asia in relation to assistance to the Philippines, Thomas said that they
were looking for a “balance” in the relationship, not only focusing on
military plans but also beefing up efforts for humanitarian assistance,
disaster mitigation efforts and economic investment.
He, however, said that in terms of equipment, they we’re bringing the
second cutter, the Dallas, to the Philippines, in about six to eight
months. He said that Filipino sailors were already training on manning
Thomas also said that he would be heading to Puerto Princesa, Palawan
Thursday to donate the last of the six ships the US had been providing
to the Philippine National Police (PNP) to help the agency capture
He said that the White House would also be sending a team to the
country next week to meet Filipino officials and engage sectors in
efforts to combat human trafficking.
He said he was also pleased that members of other Asean were also
stepping up to assist the Philippines militarily across a broad range
especially in disaster and humanitarian assistance.
“We have poured last year $4 million to help cities train to prevent
and mitigate flood. We’ll put more money in next year for disaster
relief because clearly climate change has already been the ring of
fire. We have US AID and the defense department working on Philippine
organizations on recommendations on these assistance,” he said.
He also noted how the US had more peace corps volunteers in the
Philippines than any country in the world, and that there were over 200
peace corps volunteers in the country.
Thomas stressed how the Philippines should particularly work on its
economic investments and initiatives and step up to not lag behind other
ASEAN nations, saying that of the $150 billion investment in ASEAN,
$100 billion was in Singapore.
“How do you attract that $100 billion that Singapore has to the
Philippines that is not up to us, that is up to you to design,” Thomas
He noted how the Philippines ranked eight or ninth economically among
ASEAN countries but that he believed that the Philippines could be
Thomas said that they were working on getting American businessmen to
look favorably on Southeast Asian nations, but that Southeast Asian
nations-based business should open up and be more transparent economic
Thomas said that with his experience in the Philippines, he believed
that the country needed to work on transparency in court system and
bureaucracy, speed of decision making, and predictability.
Fat Reyes | INQURER.net | August 30, 2012 | Article Link