Remarks at the Mangrove Forum of the Philippine Foreign Service Institute

Daniel R. Russel
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Manila, Philippines
January 19, 2015

(As Prepared for Delivery)

Date: 01/19/2015 Location: Manila, Philippines Description: Assistant Secretary Russel delivers remarks at the Mangrove Forum of the Philippine Foreign Service Institute. - State Dept Image

Good morning! Thank you, Carlos [Sorreta], for the introduction, and thank you Ambassador Cuisia. I’m glad to be back in Manila, and here at the Foreign Service Institute. I look forward to our Bilateral Strategic Dialogue, along with my close friend and colleague, Assistant Secretary of Defense Dave Shear.

We’re proud that the U.S. State Department helped to train the first Filipino diplomats at independence. It’s great to see this tradition of excellence continue. And let me recognize the great U.S. diplomats here, including Ambassador Goldberg and his team.

The United States and the Philippines share a unique bond – one forged over a long history and nurtured by close cooperation between our governments and our peoples – especially the vibrant community of nearly four million people of Philippine origin who live in America… and the hundreds of thousands of Americans who live here.

It is our responsibility to update that historic relationship to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

We share the values of democracy, a vibrant free press, and an entrepreneurial spirit. Our young people engage each other and the world online. We share much in culture, music, and sports—including a love for basketball.

Our educational ties are deep, with countless Filipinos having studied in the United States and an increasing number of Americans studying here.

We’re there for each other through thick and thin, in good times and bad. President Obama’s visit last April highlighted the closeness of our two presidents, and our bilateral relationship, which has grown even closer in recent years.

The Philippines is a central part of President Obama’s rebalance to Asia – our comprehensive strategy of diplomatic, security, economic and people-to-people engagement with the region.

Our economic ties are robust. We have some $24 billion in annual trade. Filipinos working in the U.S. send back more than 10 billion dollars in remittances each year, more than any other country. And the U.S. has been the largest source of foreign direct investment in the Philippines for a long time…

Investors like Cincinnati-based Convergys, the largest private employer in the Philippines, with more than 50,000 high-quality jobs. And Texas Instruments, the country’s largest exporter, which produces high-end semi-conductors at its facilities in Clark and Baguio.

These companies show it’s not just the quantity of trade and investment that’s important, it’s the quality. Doing business with America means more training and skills development for Philippine workers, and better labor and environmental standards that strengthen growth and improve the lives of regular people.

In fact, we intend to explore with you, during your hosting of APEC this year, how we can help expand the practice of corporate social responsibility to promote more inclusive economic growth in the region.

As APEC host, you will set the region’s economic agenda for the year, and we applaud your focus not just on growth, but on inclusive growth that reaches all sectors of society.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, is a cornerstone of President Obama’s rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region, and while we’re focused now on concluding the agreement with our current partners, the TPP is being drafted with an eye toward future expansion.

We hope that the Philippines will become part of this 21st century agreement sooner rather than later. To do that, we will need to work together on a host of issues, including investment and trade liberalization, which will benefit the country in the short term and for years down the road.

Beyond business, we work together to combat the global challenge of climate change. We are grateful for your government’s progressive stance on climate change at the recent UN Conference of Parties in Lima, and look forward to further cooperation with you.

We cooperate to fight corruption and improve governance, on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and recovery, and on nonproliferation.

Our Bilateral Strategic Dialogue, which is the centerpiece of Dave Shear’s and my visit, focuses on these issues, and more, including how our two countries can “export” stability to the region.

Ours is the oldest security alliance in Asia. Strengthening it, through measures like the Enhanced Defense Cooperation agreement, is important – to our bilateral alliance, to all of ASEAN, to Asia, and to global trade flowing through the region.

Dave will speak to our defense cooperation with the Philippines and the region in greater detail, so I’ll focus on the diplomatic context.

America, our allies like the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, and Australia, and partners like ASEAN members, work throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Together, we have built and are maintaining an inclusive, sustainable regional architecture, which has provided stability and economic growth, helping lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.

In addition to APEC and ASEAN, this architecture includes the ASEAN-run East Asia Summit. President Obama’s attendance, along with leaders from across the region, shows ASEAN’s growing centrality. It is one of the fastest growing parts of the world, it is integrating intelligently by forming the ASEAN Economic Community, and it is setting a model for others.

ASEAN’s success shows the power of a region built on respect for rules.

Beyond ASEAN, this regional architecture has facilitated the peaceful rise of China. The U.S. will continue to work with China to advance our shared prosperity, and our global work on challenges like climate change, pandemic disease, and supporting Afghanistan.

At the same time, we will work to constructively manage our significant differences, such as in the South China Sea. And we will encourage China, as we encourage all countries, to respect universal values and international law.

The Philippines has been an active partner in supporting international law through its own diplomacy and its legal challenges of Chinese claims. We applaud the Philippines peaceful approach to this complex challenge.

In part because of your success, America’s work in Asia now supports security and prosperity beyond the region, as we jointly tackle global issues such as climate change, and violent extremism, and pandemic disease.

The economic consequences of these threats have been clear for many years: the increased costs of natural disasters; the Bali bombings and their devastating effect on tourism; the disruptions to business and travel from bird flu.

Southeast Asia has learned from these incidents, and is making smart contributions to address today’s global crises. This helps reduce the impact of disruptions to the regional and global economies, benefitting us all.

Our work together in these areas and others shows that the rebalance has “gone global.” So you’ll see another big year for the U.S. engagement in the Asia-Pacific in 2015.

Our new number two at State, Deputy Secretary Tony Blinken, is a good friend of mine and is knowledgeable about Asia. You should expect to see him around the region.

You’ll continue to see Secretary Kerry and other Cabinet officials, culminating with President Obama’s return to Manila for APEC Leaders’ Meeting in November.

The message of U.S engagement is clear: we are a Pacific power and a trading nation and we’re here to stay.

The U.S., the Philippines, ASEAN, and the entire Asia-Pacific can and must work together in 2015 and beyond.

Thank you.