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Assistant Secretary Stilwell Press Statement on Strategic Priorities in the Philippines

Manila, July 16, 2019 — I was honored to co-chair the U.S.-Philippines Bilateral Strategic Dialogue, July 15-16 in Manila.  As a treaty ally, our partnership with the Philippines is critical for realizing our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific, with thriving sovereign nations.  A strong U.S.-Philippines alliance deters aggression and promotes regional stability, and we welcome enhanced defense cooperation with the Philippines.  I look forward to continued coordination in the coming months to determine steps we can take to improve our combined defense posture.

As Secretary Pompeo said during his visit to Manila earlier this year, where America goes, we seek partnership, not domination.  We are committed to continuing our partnership with the Philippines to fight ISIS and other terrorist groups, as well as to counter violent extremism.  We will also continue to work with the Philippines to fully implement all UN Security Council resolutions and for continued diplomacy with North Korea to achieve the goals President Trump and Chairman Kim set out in their Singapore summit, including transformed relations, building lasting peace, and complete denuclearization.  As a claimant state in the South China Sea, the Philippines is well-positioned to ensure that the ASEAN code of conduct text is fully consistent with international law, protecting the freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea for all countries, as well as the rights of claimant states to pursue security and development arrangements with partners of their choosing.

We must also enhance our economic cooperation.  We welcome progress on legislation which could provide more opportunities for U.S. companies, especially in infrastructure, as part of the Build, Build, Build program.  We look forward to building on strong momentum in areas such as energy, trade, intellectual property, and science and technology.

Both of our countries face the challenge of illicit drug use.  We remain committed to working together on evidence-based approaches to reducing drug demand by improving prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation services.  I want to continue sharing information and best practices to jointly combat this common challenge in a manner that will respect human rights and the rule of law.

I am proud of our continued commitment to enhancing people-to-people ties.  The bonds between our nations forged out of cultural and educational exchanges are abiding and fortify our relationship as friends, partners, and allies.

I am thrilled to have included the Philippines in my first overseas trip as Assistant Secretary.  I look forward to working closely with my counterparts here in Manila, and with Ambassador Romualdez in Washington.

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