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U.S.-Philippine Relations
2010-2016 - Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino

President Aquino’s first overseas trip as President was to the United States, on the occasion of the 2010 UN General Assembly, and he also visited in September 2011 to launch the Open Government Partnership with President Obama in New York. There were regular US cabinet-level, congressional, and military visits to the Philippines as well. In November 2011, Secretary Clinton traveled to Manila where she commemorated the 60th anniversary of the Mutual Defense Treaty. The United States and Philippines held their first-ever Bilateral Strategic Dialogue on January 27-28, 2011, in Manila to advance discussion and cooperation on bilateral, regional, and global issues.

The United States and the Republic of the Philippines held the sixth Bilateral Strategic Dialogue (BSD) 17 to 18 March 2016 in Washington, DC. The annual dialogue supported and reinforced the Alliance across a broad range of shared values, interests, and priorities. The Dialogue was co-chaired by Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel and Assistant Secretary of Defense David Shear for the United States and Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Evan P. Garcia and Undersecretary of National Defense Pio Lorenzo F. Batino for the Republic of the Philippines. Discussions reaffirmed shared commitment to strengthening the Alliance, in terms of ensuring both countries’ mutual defense and security, as well as jointly contributing to regional peace, stability, and economic prosperity.

On the occasion of the BSD, the two sides reaffirmed their commitment to the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951, as articulated in the November 2011 Manila Declaration and more recently in the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). They noted agreement on five EDCA Agreed Locations encompassing portions of the following facilities and areas: Antonio Bautista Air Base, Basa Air Base, Fort Magsaysay, Lumbia Air Base, and Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base, and discussed next steps for implementation of the EDCA.

Both sides expressed their firm opposition to the ongoing militarization of outposts in the South China Sea and discussed their common view that the installation of new military assets on the outposts escalates tensions. They discussed options to address further militarization and unilateral actions in the South China Sea. The delegations from the United States and the Philippines reaffirmed that countries should clarify maritime claims in the South China Sea in accordance with international law as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention and peacefully resolve or manage disputes, including through the use of peaceful dispute settlement mechanisms, such as arbitration. Both sides restated their views that the ruling in the South China Sea case before the U.N. Law of the Sea Convention arbitral tribunal would be legally binding on both China and the Philippines.

To counter transnational terrorism and insurgency, the US Government is helping to increase the abilities of military and civilian law enforcement agencies. The United States also provides humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons in conflict-affected areas and to victims of natural disasters. In September 2010, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) signed a $434-million compact with the Philippines. The 5-year compact provides funding for three major projects: road construction and rehabilitation, community development, and revenue administration. In November 2011, the United States and Philippines jointly launched the Partnership for Growth, a focused development effort which seeks to address the most significant constraints to economic growth in the Philippines and stimulate enhanced, inclusive economic expansion, in line with other high-performing emerging economies.

In FY 2011, the US Government--working closely with the Philippine Government, civil society, the private sector, and other donors--provided $192.9 million in grant funds to foster inclusive economic growth and alleviate poverty; strengthen democratic institutions and governance; and counter transnational terrorism and insurgency in Mindanao. To achieve inclusive economic growth and alleviate poverty, the US Government is supporting a broad range of socio-economic efforts, including activities to promote fiscal and trade policy reforms; infrastructure development; business climate improvement; enterprise development; natural resources management; improved health and education services; and increased access to clean and affordable energy, water, and sanitation services. To strengthen democratic institutions and governance, the US Government is supporting judicial capacity building, fiscal management and accountability of local governments, election administration and management, civil society strengthening, alternative dispute resolution, human rights law enforcement, and activities to combat corruption and human trafficking.

The Philippines has ranked among the largest beneficiaries of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program for developing countries, which provides preferential duty-free access to the US market. In 2010, the Philippines was the eighth-largest exporter under the GSP program with nearly $913 million in duty-free exports to the United States.

In August 2013 Emmanuel Bautista, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, fresh from a visit with his US counterpart, said the Philippines’ goal is to “leverage alliances” to create a security environment that would make any outside threat “hesitate” before trying to encroach on Philippine territory. Both sides have said the increased visits would mean more joint exercises and easy access to and storage of equipment. For the US, the increased rotations would strengthen its foothold in the region as it turns its military, diplomatic and economic sights on Asia. The new US focus on Asia comes as the Philippines modernized its own military and seeks to bolster its “minimum credible defense posture.

The Philippines and the United States had been strengthening military ties in recent years as regional tensions grew over the South China Sea. In 2014, the two countries signed a new 10-year military agreement. And in March 2016, prior to Duterte’s election, the United States and the Philippines signed a pact clearing the way for a new permanent US military presence, including a base in Mindanao, the center of the long running Muslim insurgency.



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