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13/01/2016: PH SECRETARIES ENGAGE US SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE LEADERSHIP

PRESS RELEASE
WDC-002-2016 
13 January 2016

WASHINGTON, DC—Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario and Secretary of Defense Voltaire Gazmin met with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Chairman and ranking member of the US Senate Armed Services Committee, respectively, on 12 January 2016.

“We wish to thank the Senate Armed Services Committee for the priority it has accorded to US engagement with Asia-Pacific and for the Committee’s statements calling for stronger US presence in the region,” Secretary Del Rosario said on behalf of the Philippine delegation.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has demonstrated keen interest in developments in Asia, particularly on the issue of maritime security. One of the Committee’s most significant initiatives in this regard was the introduction of the Maritime Security Initiative in the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that allots USD 50 million to help enhance the maritime security capacities of countries in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines. President Barack Obama first unveiled this maritime assistance plan when he was in Manila last November.

The two Secretaries also noted Senator McCain’s comments against China’s recent test flight over Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef and the Committee’s consistent efforts to prod the US Government to continue with legitimate challenges to China’s illegal claims in the South China Sea.

On the arbitration case, Secretary Del Rosario thanked the Committee and Senator McCain for expressing support to the Arbitral Tribunal’s decision on the question of jurisdiction; freedom of navigations operations; and the decision of the Philippine Supreme Court that affirmed the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

In a statement dated 12 January, Senator McCain welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision, saying that “This landmark agreement between the United States and the Philippines will bring our alliance to a level of cooperation and integration that we have not witnessed in decades.”

He further said, “As Manila finds itself the target of Chinese coercion in the West Philippine Sea and is looking to Washington for leadership, this agreement will give us new tools to deepen our alliance with the Philippines, expand engagement with the Philippine Armed Forces, and enhance our presence in Southeast Asia.”

Secretary Del Rosario and Secretary Gazmin were in the US capital for the second Two-Plus-Two Ministerial Dialogue also held on January 12 at the US Department of State. They led the Philippine delegation composed of Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr., Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Maria Andrelita Austria, Defense Assistant Secretary Raymond Quilop, Consul General Henry Bensurto, Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, and other government officials.

The Two-Plus-Two Ministerial Dialogue is the highest level policy consultative mechanism between the Philippine and US Governments. The first Philippines-US Two-Plus-Two Ministerial Dialogue, which was held on 30 April 2012 in Washington, D.C., was considered a milestone in the bilateral relations.

The Joint Statement of the Second Philippines-US Two-Plus-Two Ministerial Dialogue may be viewed here. ###

PHOTO RELEASE
WDC-003-2016 
13 January 2016

Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Secretary Albert del Rosario meet with Senator John McCain and Jack Reed, US Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman and ranking member, respectively, on 12 January 2016 in Washington, D.C.

PHOTO RELEASE
WDC-004-2016 
13 January 2016

Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Secretary Albert del Rosario engage Senator John McCain and Jack Reed, US Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman and ranking member, respectively, on 12 January 2016 in Washington, D.C.