His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
During the state dinner in honor of Honorable Barack Obama, President of the United States of America
[Delivered at Malacañan Palace, Manila, on April 28, 2014]
Mr. President, on behalf of the Filipino people, I welcome you and your delegation to the Philippines. Though your stay here in our country may be short, I hope that it will allow you to see and experience for yourself how, indeed, it is more fun in the Philippines—and that, undoubtedly, the Philippines works.
Mr. President, the historic friendship between our peoples has been punctuated by visits from your predecessors. Your visit, the eighth by a U.S. president, has been a long time coming, and it marks yet another important chapter in our relations.
Your presence here today reaffirms the strong bond between our nations. As a friend and partner of the Filipino people, Mr. President, you have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the growth and development of our nation. It is only fitting, therefore, that your efforts be recognized with the conferment of the Order of Sikatuna.
Since 1953, the highest recognition of diplomatic merit of the Republic of the Philippines has been the Order of Sikatuna. It is conferred on those who have fostered, and elevated, the bilateral partnership of our country with other nations. Tonight, I have the distinct pleasure to confer the highest rank, that of Raja or Grand Collar, on you, Mr. President, for your leadership and policies that assisted the Philippines in times of natural disaster, for helping uphold stability and peace by means of the rule of law in Southeast Asia, and for working with us to fundamentally raise the defense capacity of our country. [Applause]
The first of your predecessors to receive this distinction was the honorable Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1960. Then, as now, may this conferment symbolize our nation’s esteem to the American people; and may it serve as a reminder of the mutual desire to always be partners based on the highest principles of liberty, democracy, and progress.
Mr. President, our discussions today highlighted the ongoing dialogue and cooperation between our two countries, as we adapt and respond to the changing circumstances and the paramount challenges of the 21st century. The world has come to realize that stability is a necessary foundation of progress and prosperity for all our peoples; alliances are deepened not only through a shared history, but also through mutual confidence and respect, which is constantly refreshed to give new relevance and purpose to our positive, longstanding relations. We are bound by the quest to turn our shared principles of democracy, human rights, and freedom into an inclusive reality, not just for our respective peoples, but for all nations.
Mr. President, I have always taken to heart that, in an increasingly complex world, it is incumbent upon all of us to be part of the solution and not of the problem. From the very first meeting we had in New York in 2010 to this night, you and I, and the members of our respective administrations, have worked together as partners and friends, finding ways to promote common understanding and to develop meaningful solutions to a great number of our era’s dilemmas. Whether in strengthening our trade relations, security alliances, and people-to-people engagements, or in encouraging more nations to commit to the Open Government Partnership, an area where the Philippines continues to innovate—we continue to challenge ourselves to answer the pressing questions of these times: By what means can peace be sustained; through what instruments can poverty and the effects of climate change and calamity be addressed; and to whose benefit will our mutual and collective undertakings redound?
The answer, of course, lies in the maintenance and deepening of the alliance we share—whether in building a Southeast Asia that champions the rule of law or in advancing the belief that the most certain way to prosperity is to actively seek a harmonious relationship with all nations. Mr. President, through this brief visit of yours, I am confident that you have witnessed firsthand how such values, our shared beliefs, and principles, can transform a society—as it has ours.
On this note, Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, please rise as I propose a toast:
To the good health, happiness, and success of my friend President Obama and his Family;
To the continuing closeness and affection between Filipinos and Americans;
And to the realization of our common vision of a more stable, more prosperous, and more inclusive international community.