The Philippines and the United States Congress
Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. has further intensified the Embassy’s engagement with the United States Congress since assuming his post as Ambassador on April 4, 2011. Ambassador Cuisia has met with Congressional leaders, Senators, and Representatives to highlight the importance of Philippines-United States Alliance in pursuing mutual goals of economic growth, democratic governance, and regional security.
The relationship between the Philippines and the United States Congress are steeped in history. From 1907, during the American occupation, the Philippines had been represented in the United States Congress by Philippine resident commissioners until the U.S. granted Philippine independence in 1946. The commissioners were chosen by the Philippine Legislature and the National Assembly, and they represented the Philippines as one congressional district.
Today, Philippine relations with the United States Congress continue to be actively promoted in view of the sustained and enduring close linkages between the two countries as well as the presence of some 3.5 million Americans of Filipino descent in the United States. Filipino Americans represent the second biggest Asian minority, and a good number of them have an active presence in practically all states and congressional districts.
Bills in the US Congress of interest to the Philippines are generally related to trade, economic and security relations, US assistance to the Philippines, and those that promote the interest of the Filipino population and the Filipino American community.
H.E. President Benigno Aquino III receives Senator Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) and Senator Thad Cochran (R-MI) at the Malacanang Palace on April 30, 2011. Photo shows (L-R) Philippine Chief of Presidential Protocol Miguel A. Perez-Rubio, Philippine House of Representatives Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Philippine Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, President Aquino, Senator Cochran, Senator Inouye, Mrs. Irene Inouye and U.S. Ambassador Harry K. Thomas.
Filipino Veterans of World War II
The most important piece of legislation in the US Congress that had been the focus of Philippine advocacy for many years was the Filipino Veterans Equity Act. The Philippine government was successful in leading a concerted effort with the Filipino American community in ensuring the passage of a version of the bill despite the political and economic obstacles the United States had to hurdle. In February 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law a provision recognizing the military service of Filipino veterans in World War II and providing them with lump sum benefits. Hundreds of thousands of Filipino soldiers fought during World War II under the flag of the United States. Champions in the US Congress such as Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii and Representative Bob Filner of California and many other congressional supporters had a vital role in the bill’s passage.
US Assistance to the Philippines and Defense Cooperation
The US Congress had allocated US$2 billion for the Philippines from 1999 to 2011. US assistance contributes to:
- building peace in Mindanao,
- strengthening democratic institutions in the country,
- enhancing economic growth, and
- reinforcing greater stability in the region.
The Philippines needs to fortify its defense, and President Benigno Aquino has made major investments in the upgrade of the nation’s defense equipment. As a treaty ally, the Philippines would like to engage the U.S. in contributing to the overall national effort in building an independent credible defense posture. Hence, the supplementary foreign military financing approved yearly by the U.S. Congress remains a very important component of the Philippine government’s effort to develop the country’s external defense capabilities.
Save Our Industries Act
To expand textiles and apparel trade between the Philippines and the U.S., the SAVE Act is an innovative win-win trade legislation that will sustain jobs and increase exports in both the United States and the Philippines. H.R. 2387, was introduced by Representatives Jim McDermott (D-WA), along with Brian Bilbray (R-CA) and Bob Filner (D-CA) co-chairs of the Philippine Friendship Caucus. The Senate companion, S. 1244, was introduced by Senators Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) on June 22, 2011. Co-sponsors include Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and Charles Schumer (D-NY). The bill now has strong bipartisan support in both chambers of the US Congress. Visit: http://www.saveourindustriesact.com/
SAVE Act would:
- Allow for apparel products manufactured in the Philippines using U.S. made fabrics to enter the United States duty free
- Provide duty-free benefits for a limited number of non-import sensitive apparel articles containing fabrics of any origin to help re-establish a competitive Philippine apparel industry
- Develop the strictest levels of customs enforcement, putting in place measures to prevent any trans-shipment of apparel under the program
- Provide a necessary bridge to Philippine-U.S. free trade under the Transpacific Partnership
Friends in the US Congress
In the Senate, Senator Inouye is a leading champion of the friendship and alliance between the Philippines and the U.S. He has long felt that the US has shortchanged the Philippines, referring to Filipino soldiers who were not given benefits due them after they served in the US Armed Forces during World War II.
In the House, the Philippines-US Friendship Caucus has been an important institution that aims to support the friendship between the Philippines and the U.S. and to address the concerns of the Filipino American community. To date, the Philippine Caucus has 64 members and is led by Representative Bob Filner (D-CA) and Representative Brian Bilbray (R-CA) both from California. Members of the Caucus include U.S. legislators of Filipino ancestry namely, Representative Bob Scott (D-VA) and Representative Steve Austria (R-OH).
Shown above is Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. with Congressman Bob Filner (left) and Congressman Brian Bilbray (right) at their separate meetings on the Hill in 2011.
During the term of Secretary Albert del Rosario as Philippine Ambassador to the U.S., the Caucus was officially launched in Washington, D.C. in 2003 with 52 bipartisan Members of the US House of Representatives. The eight founding pillars of the Caucus are Representatives Darrell Issa (R-CA), Bob Filner (D-CA), Duke Cunningham (R-CA), Bobby Scott (D-VA), Todd Tiahrt (R-CA), Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Lane Evans (D-IL).
On February 7, 2012, Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), a member of the Friendship Caucus, convened a congressional hearing by the House Subcommittee on Terrorism, Non-proliferation and Trade which was devoted solely to United States-Philippines Alliance.
Interactions between United States legislators and Philippine officials
Interactions between United States legislators and Philippine officials
There have been active interactions between Members of the US Congress and Philippine government officials. The following legislators recently visited the Philippines:
- Senator Inouye and Senator Cochran, leaders of the Committee on Appropriations (30 April 2011)
- Congressional delegation led by Chairman Dana Rohrabacher of California (7 June 2011)
- Senator John McCain and Senator Joe Lieberman with Senators Kelly Ayotte and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (17 January 2011)
- Congressional delegation led by the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, Chairman Hal Rogers (13-15 January 2011)
In Washington, D.C., Philippine officials, including Vice President Jejomar Binay and Secretary Albert del Rosario, have met with numerous congressional leaders both in the Senate and the House. Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. has frequented the Capitol Hill and met with key Members to raise their awareness on Philippines-United States relations. Ambassador Cuisia has also met with Members in their respective States and districts in the presence of Filipino American constituents and leaders.
Political and Legislative Affairs Office
Tel. No. 202.467.9354
Ms. Rosanna Marie B. Villamor-Voogel
Minister for Political and Legislative Affairs
Mr. Gunther Emil M. Sales
Political and Legislative Officer
Ms. Charisma Coros-Pineda
Ms. Patricia Carla Santos