Remarks Philippines Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Before Their Meeting

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Manila, Philippines
July 27, 2016

FOREIGN SECRETARY YASAY: Good morning, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY KERRY: Good morning to you.

FOREIGN SECRETARY YASAY: Welcome to the Philippines, and good morning to everyone. Ambassador. Welcome to Manila. If I may call you John, as you promised, you can call me Perfecto, and --

SECRETARY KERRY: Oh, I call you Jun, Perfecto, what do you want me call you? You tell me.

FOREIGN SECRETARY YASAY: (Laughter.) Perfecto is probably -- Jun would be good.


FOREIGN SECRETARY YASAY: We appreciate this gesture of goodwill, which demonstrates the strength of the Philippines-U.S. relationship and the importance of the alliance to the United States. The developments of the past years have shown that our alliance indeed rests on common adherence to the principles of democracy, rule of law, and justice. We appreciate the support of the United States Government for advocacies and for the reassurances of your ironclad commitment to the treaty alliance.

Yesterday, we welcomed the new (inaudible) that the Philippine supreme court affirmed with finality its earlier ruling that upheld the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, or EDCA. This effectively resolves the last remaining legal hurdle as we recognize potential contribution of EDCA to the preservation of peace and stability in the region, including disaster preparedness and for our national efforts towards defense modernization.

Every day we see the increasing threat of violent extremism in different parts of the world. Our two countries are not spared from this scourge. Our partnership in counterterrorism has been effective, and the Philippine government looks forward to further reinforcing our cooperation.

As we sit down today to chart the course of our relations, I also look forward to discussions on your views on the arbitration cases and actions that the international community can pursue along the lines of the arbitral award. I would also like to hear your assessment of our recent meetings in Vientiane, where I underscored that the Philippines, while continuing to exercise prudence and restraint, will proceed with full respect of the results of the arbitration. As President Duterte mentioned in his remarks before the members of the armed forces yesterday, we will also ensure that we will be prepared to address any challenges.

The Philippines will continue to be responsible and a reliable player in the community of nations, and will honor our international commitments and obligations. At the same time, this administration assured – or assumed office fully cognizant of the challenges that our country faces and has pledged to pursue an economic agenda that will bring greater good to the rest of our population. We appreciate the United States’ sustained support for our development, especially in the countryside. We are currently working on our project development process and are looking forward to the MCC Compact signing in the fall of 2017.

Today, I am joined by my senior officials who will contribute to what I know will be a truly robust conversation. We hope that this will be a start of more meaningful engagements with the U.S. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Mr. Secretary, Jun. First of all, congratulations on a successful election, a successful transition. I think the record-setting number of voters is a testimony in and of itself to the vibrant democracy in the Philippines. We admire that and we respect it. We also note that for 70 years – which is not a short span of time – the United States has been in a committed relationship with respect to the security of the Philippines and the region, and we still remember with pride the mutual sacrifices and contributions that were fought for – freedom for your country – and we continue to want to work with you to uphold the longest-standing single mutual defense treaty ally of the United States in Asia. And you’re also Asia’s oldest democracy, so you are a very special partner to the United States.

Now, I know that relationships are always subject to question, the give-and-take of politics – your politics, our politics. We understand that. But deep underneath that, there are strong values and strong interests that do unite us. And even when there are times of tension and stress, as we’ve seen over the questions in the South China Sea or otherwise, I know we can count on you and you know you can count on us to always sit down and always try to talk honestly and directly together. We view you as a partner, and I emphasize the partnership – that means an equal voice, an equal discussion, and our relationship obviously is historic in terms of people-to-people ties that form the foundation of the very, very close bilateral relationship. And it’s built on strong economic ties, on strong cultural ties, and also on our societal ties.

So I’m really happy to be back here. I came here in 1986 for the first time. I’ve been involved in the ups and downs of politics through these years. I worked very closely with (inaudible) efforts for the election and Gloria Aquino and the change to move away from difficult years, and I think we can be proud of the journey that the Philippines has made in that course of time.

So it’s my privilege to be back here. I certainly look forward to discussing the issues that you just mentioned. And let’s get on with that discussion.