Positively Filipino: “What is the US-Philippines Society?” by Ambassador John F. Maisto
A dynamic young organization approaching its sixth anniversary, the US-Philippines Society has become widely recognized as the premier private sector forum for enhancing U.S. relations with the Philippines.
With headquarters in Washington, D.C., the Society was launched in May, 2012 to create a new and timely mechanism for raising awareness of the Philippines in the United States and supporting modern 21st century bilateral ties.
The Society is an independent 501 (c)3 non-profit co-chaired by former U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines John D. Negroponte and Philippine business leader Manuel V. Pangilinan, with a bi-national board of directors including prominent Filipino and American civic and business figures.
US-PHS programs reflect the shared history and common interests linking the United States and the Philippines. They are designed to promote business and investment opportunities, showcase culture, arts and design, and provide perspectives on current political, social, economic and strategic issues.
The Society has raised funds in the U.S., including from the Filipino-American community, to assist disaster recovery efforts in the Philippines. Following the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013, the Society raised more than $2 million from across the country, including from Honorary Chair Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, to assist with school and housing rebuilding, livelihood and health care improvements, and clearing operations. Highlights of the Haiyan fund-raising effort included a 2014 “After the Storm” concert headlined by Lou Diamond Phillips, Lea Salonga and apl.de.ap at Washington’s Kennedy Center, and a Patis Tesoro fashion show the following year that drew support for restoring Aklan’s piña fabric industry. Both events were made possible through partnership with former Ambassador and Mrs. Jose L. Cuisia, Jr.
More recently, the Society partnered with the Philippine Humanitarian Coalition and the Philippine Nurses Association of America to raise funds to aid families displaced during the 2017 Marawi siege in Mindanao. Initial donations supported a medical mission to evacuee centers outside Marawi City in August 2017. An additional contribution presented to the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation during the Society’s Manila Board Meeting program in February will support education and livelihood programs in the Marawi area. Society members visited Marawi City and IDP centers on February 21 to review ongoing recovery needs.
The Society’s 2018 mission to Manila brought American and Filipino business and technology leaders together with President Duterte and his administration’s economic team, led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez. US-PHS directors and members reviewed implications for business of new tax reform legislation in both countries, progress in exploring a possible bilateral Free Trade Agreement, OFW protections, and enhancements in cyber protections through the Joint US-PH Cyber Security Working Group. The Society supports recent steps to strengthen U.S.-Philippines relations, sustain investor confidence, and foster cooperation on bilateral and trans-national challenges, including regional and global terrorist threats.
US-PHS programming on Mindanao in 2017 provided insights into the challenges and opportunities facing the first Philippine president from the southern Philippines. Forums in Washington offered perspectives from officials of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and outside experts.
On politics and governance, the Society organized a series of presentations by leading Filipino analysts on the 2016 presidential election, focusing on issues that propelled President Duterte to victory and the drivers behind the administration’s emphasis on an independent foreign policy and its domestic policy priorities. The latter include the challenges of treating drug addiction through rehabilitation efforts – Society directors have visited the impressive rehab center in Taguig – and the Philippines’ economic growth record of between 6% and 7% over the past six years.
The US-PHS has taken special delight in bringing Philippine culture to American audiences. The Bayanihan Dance Troupe, the Philippine Madrigal Singers, music, fashion and design presentations were all enthusiastically received in shows from Washington to New York to the West Coast. Donations for the Madrigal Singers concert last September supported disaster recovery operations in Houston following Hurricane Harvey, a gesture that recognized past assistance from Americans, including from Texas, after Typhoon Haiyan. The Society has co-sponsored programs, including an annual “Embassy Chef Challenge,” to increase awareness of Philippine culinary traditions amid the rising popularity of Filipino food in America. Programs in Washington and Los Angeles on the life of famed Filipino basketball coach Baby Dalupan drew overflow crowds of Fil-Am’s, including former players, who remembered Coach Baby’s influence on generations of Filipino collegiate and professional basketball players and fans.
The Society has encouraged Americans to remember the shared history of U.S.-Philippines relations. Programs on World War II and the 75th anniversary of the Battles of Bataan and Corregidor featured authors and discussants on the challenges, resistance and sacrifices of American and Filipino forces. The US-PHS has also joined with Fil-Am groups to raise funds for the Congressional Gold Medal recognizing Filipino veterans of WW II. Society leaders joined with the Philippine embassy to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Jones Act, when the U.S. Congress first called for Philippine independence.
Society leaders are mindful of the legacy of the Philippine-American War at the turn of the century and passed a resolution in February in support of a return of the “Bells of Balangiga” to their church in Eastern Samar.
The US-PHS was delighted and honored to welcome Ambassador Jose Manuel G. “Babe” Romualdez to Washington in November, 2017. The close cooperation quickly forged with Ambassador Romualdez, an ex-officio member of the Society’s Board of Directors, and his embassy staff is a multiplier for reaching American audiences with objective news and information on the Philippines and for promoting an improved understanding in the U.S. of the multifaceted Philippine-American relationship — a core mission of the Society.
To learn more about the US-Philippines Society and membership information, please visit our website at www.USPHSociety.org.
Published by Positively Filipino
April 24, 2018