Kerry’s visit to PH to broaden cooperation of two countries

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

(UPDATED) Malacanang sees the visit of United States Secretary of State John Kerry to the Philippines as a chance for both countries to broaden cooperation on various fronts.

In the regular press briefing on Tuesday, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said these fronts include economic and security cooperation, people-to-people ties and humanitarian assistance and disaster response and cooperation.

"As stated by (Foreign Affairs) Secretary Albert del Rosario, the visit of Secretary John Kerry presents an opportunity for the two countries to discuss the broadening of economic and security cooperation, strengthening of people-to-people ties and humanitarian assistance and disaster response and cooperation on regional issues," he said.

Kerry arrived in the Philippines Tuesday morning and is expected to meet with President Benigno Aquino III in the evening.

Meanwhile, Coloma said the reported announcement by Kerry that the US will boost maritime security assistance to the countries of Southeast Asia amid rising tensions with China is consistent with the country’s stand to defend freedom of navigation and freedom of aviation and flight.

He said the Philippines joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Japan in last weekend's Asean-Japan Commemorative Summit in stressing the importance of freedom of navigation in the seas and freedom of flight.

Kerry on the first day of his visit in Manila for series of bilateral talks with government officials discussed several issues pertaining to territorial disputes in the South China Sea and insisted that it should be settle by way of internationally-recognized resolution mechanisms provided in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

"We support internationally recognized dispute resolution mechanisms such as those that would provide in the law of the sea conventions," Kerry said.

The Philippines has filed recently an arbitrary case against China before the international Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands but Beijing continuously insisted that it will not participate in the proceedings and will only recognize a two-party talks.

"We don't want rising tensions… we support arbitration," Kerry said.

Kerry also noted that the US strongly opposed the use of intimidation, coercion, or aggression to advance territorial claims in Southeast Asia particularly by countries surrounding the South China Sea.

He also urged China and other members of the Asean to immediately approve the proposed Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (West Philippines Sea) to somehow reduce "the risk of accidents or miscalculations."

"With that process, we think that claimants have the responsibility prior to their claims and to align their claims with international law. That is the way to proceed in resolving any disputes over the South China Sea peacefully," Kerry said.

The former state senator of Massachusetts also vowed that the US remained "firmly committed to the security of the Philippines and the [ASEAN] region."

"We support efforts to reduce tensions regarding territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea," Kerry said.

He also criticized China for its unilateral establishment of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea and warned against a similar move in the South China Sea.

"Today, I raise our deep concerns about China’s announcement in the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone… with the United States does not recognized that zone and does not accept it. The zone should not be implemented and China should refrain from taking similar unilateral actions elsewhere in the region (Asia) and particularly over the South China Sea," Kerry said.

Kerry noted that if China makes a unilateral move, then the western superpower will make its position.

The US has committed $40-million dollars in assistance to the Philippines' security forces, which Kerry described as an initiative to improve the country's maritime security and maritime domain awareness.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said that the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Philippine National Police (PNP) will benefit from the latest grant from the world’s superpower in the next three years, which will came from US Global Security Contingency Fund (GSCF).

Del Rosario said that the GCSF will enhance the country’s law enforcement capabilities in securing maritime borders and combating terrorism.

On Tuesday night, Kerry will pay a courtesy call on Aquino in Malacanang to be followed by a dinner.

On Wednesday, Kerry will visit Tacloban City, one of the areas hit hard by super typhoon Yolanda, and meet people affected by the typhoon and those involved in relief efforts. (SDR/John Carlo Cahinhinan/Sunnex)

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