Highlights of the US-Philippines Society Board Meeting Program in Manila
A US-Philippines Society delegation led by Ambassador John Negroponte completed a four-day mission to the Philippines June 23, highlighted by a meeting with President-elect Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. and key members of the new leadership team at a welcome reception hosted by Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel G. Romualdez on June 21.
Negroponte used the meeting to congratulate BBM saying, “the Society recognizes his broad popular electoral mandate, appeal to unity through the campaign, and the smooth democratic transition currently underway.”
He added, “the Society looks forward to working with the incoming leadership in support of bilateral strategic military and commercial engagement, promoting a stable, healthy, resilient and prosperous Indo-Pacific region, as well as continuing the strong people-to-people ties that exist between our two countries.”
Society Co-chairs Negroponte and Manuel V. Pangilinan conferred the 2022 Carlos P. Romulo award on Ambassador Romualdez in recognition of his superior diplomatic service and support for the US-Philippines Society.
In addition to engaging the Philippines’ new leaders, Society members met separately June 21 with officials of the current administration, including Foreign Secretary Locsin and Defense Secretary Lorenzana, for a review of key foreign and security policy issues, and to express appreciation for their role in enhancing US-PH relations.
At its first in-person meeting in two years, the binational Society board of directors reviewed developments in the trade, investment and commercial relationship, focusing on mutual opportunities in the Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework initiative and prospects for trade preferences under GSP renewal. Incoming Trade Secretary Pascual welcomed the U.S. commitment under these platforms including the Bilateral Strategic Dialogue held in November 2021 and cited the Philippines potential as key U.S. partner in the supply of critical minerals. More broadly, continuing engagement on trade and investment will promote more stable, structured and predictable economic and commercial relationships.
Senator Imee Marcos, widely expected to chair the Committee on Foreign Relations, addressed the Society delegation June 20, providing a comprehensive and substantive preview of government policy directions in the period ahead.
Other activities included a virtual briefing on South China Sea disputes from Washington-based Maritime Transparency Initiative director Greg Poling. Director Henry B. Howard moderated the afternoon sessions that began with a luncheon discussion with the Philippine Council on Foreign Relations, and exchanges with local government officials from outside the Metro Manila region, including Butuan City Mayor R.V. Lagnada, providing in-depth analyses of local governance.
Delegates traveled to Balayan, Batangas June 22 to observe training under Project RISE, an initiative that will provide opportunities for skilled Filipino seafarers to train community volunteers in disaster preparedness. RISE is a collaboration between the US-based Smart Development Institute headed by Roberto Llames and PTC Holdings represented by MGen Restituto Padilla. Llames briefed Balayan municipal officials, including Mayor J.R. Fronda, on a RISE mobile application designed to streamline communications during disaster response. Former ambassador to the Philippines Thomas Hubbard headed the USPS delegation to Balayan. While in Batangas, delegates also visited the new Atlantic Gulf and Pacific LNG terminal in Ilijan, which is poised to provide additional energy resources to the Philippines when the terminal becomes operational in September.
The Society’s mission to the Philippines was capped by a June 23 visit to Agila Subic Shipyard and the Philippine Navy’s Naval Operating Base, where delegates met with Defense Secretary Lorenzana, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Secretary Vince Dizon, and Philippine Ambassador Romualdez along with other senior Philippine civilian and military officials. The visit, joined by American Embassy Charge d’Affaires Heather Variava, provided delegates with firsthand insights into Agila Subic’s strategic value to the alliance and expanded commercial opportunities, with benefits for investors and a potential expansion of the local workforce. U.S. private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management assumed ownership of the former Hanjin shipyard now called Agila Subic Project which is among the largest shipyards in the world.
The US-Philippines Society celebrated its tenth anniversary in May and looks forward to continuing work in support of strong, mutually beneficial ties between the countries and peoples of the United States and the Philippines.