Statement of President Aquino during the press conference with U.S. President Obama, April 28, 2014

His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
During the joint press conference with Honorable Barack Obama, President of the United States of America

[Delivered in Malacañan Palace on April 28, 2014]

The honorable President of the United States Barack Obama and his official delegation, members of the Cabinet present, members of the press, ladies and gentlemen: good afternoon.

Today, the Philippines welcomes President Obama and his delegation on his first state visit to the Philippines. The United States is a key ally, a strategic partner, and a reliable friend of the Philippines. With this visit, we reaffirm the deep partnership between our countries—one founded on democratic values, mutual interests, and our shared history and aspirations, and one that will definitely give us the momentum to propel our peoples to even greater heights.

We witnessed the most recent and tangible manifestations of this in the immediate outpouring of assistance from the government of the United States and the American people in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda, and your nation’s clear expression of solidarity with the typhoon’s survivors. Mr. President, in your State of the Union Address early this year, you spoke of how American volunteers and troops were greeted with gratitude in the affected areas. Today, I reiterate formally: the Filipino people will never forget such kindness and compassion. On behalf of my countrymen, I thank the United States of America once more for being a true friend to our people.

The friendship and partnership between our countries, however, are evident not only in times of crisis and immediate need, but also in other aspects of our relations. Our defense alliance has been a cornerstone of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region for more than 60 years. And our strategic partnership spans a broad range of areas of cooperation, contributing to the growth and prosperity of both our nations, and fostering closer bonds between our peoples.

As such, President Obama and I met today with a shared resolve to ensure that our deepening relations are attuned to the realities and needs that have emerged in the 21st century, which affect not only our two countries, but also the entire community of nations.

I thank President Obama for U.S. support for our government’s efforts in modernizing and enhancing its defense capabilities. The Philippines-U.S. Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement takes our security cooperation to a higher level of engagement, reaffirms our countries’ commitment to mutual defense and security, and promotes regional peace and stability.

Both President Obama and I share the conviction that territorial and maritime disputes in the Asia-Pacific region should be settled peacefully, based on international law. We affirm that arbitration is an open, friendly, and peaceful approach to seeking a just and durable solution. We also underscored the importance of the full and effective implementation of the Declaration of Conduct and the expeditious conclusion of a substantive and legally binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea—all towards fostering peace and stability in our part of the world. We likewise welcome the active participation of the United States in regional mechanisms such as the ASEAN Regional Forum and the East Asia Summit.

Typhoon Haiyan showed the entire world how vulnerable the Philippines, as well as other developing countries, is to natural disasters. As such, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response is an essential component of our cooperation. As the United States and the American people have always been ready to support us in the aftermath of disasters, so too do we look forward to the continued cooperation of the United States and the rest of our partners in the international community, as we undertake the task of building back better the communities affected by Typhoon Haiyan. This morning, we made a promising start, as we discussed how our partnership can be enhanced through building climate-resilient communities.

These kinds of strong communities are important, not only in withstanding disasters, but also in fostering inclusive growth across the entire country. President Obama and I recognize the importance of strong economic engagement for the continued growth of both the Philippines and the United States.

On this note, we expressed our appreciation for U.S. support to our government’s programs under the Partnership for Growth framework, which enhances the policy environment for economic growth through $145 million total planned contribution from the U.S. Agency for International Development. U.S. support is also coursed through the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which supports the implementation of projects on road infrastructure, poverty reduction, and good governance with a $434 million grant from 2011-2016.

Recently, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration reinstated the Philippines to a Category 1 status. This will redound to mutual benefit for our countries—from opening more routes for travel between the United States and the Philippines, to creating more business opportunities, to facilitating increased tourism and business travel.

We welcome the substantive agreement between our countries on the terms and concessions for the U.S. to support the Philippines’ request for the extension of special treatment for our rice imports until 2017.

We also discussed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is a high standard trade arrangement that will shape the global and regional economic architecture in the 21st century. The Philippines is working to ascertain how participation in TPP can be realized.

The signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro last March 27 brings a just and lasting peace within our reach—a peace that will serve as a strong foundation for stability, inclusivity, and progress in Mindanao. This was borne of the steadfast commitment and the hard work of our administration, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and other partners and stakeholders, the U.S. included. We thank President Obama for the United States’ significant assistance and support for the Philippine peace process.

Our meeting today was comprehensive, historic, and significant—embodying our shared values and aspirations. It accorded President Obama and myself the opportunity to build on the relations between our countries, and discuss our strategic vision for the future of the Philippines-United States relationship—a relationship that is modern, mature, and forward-looking, and one that allows us to surpass challenges, towards the benefit of our peoples, the entire region, and the world.

Thank you.