Opening Statement: Roundtable Discussions Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), co-sponsored by the US-Philippines Society

April 20, 2018


Opening Statement of Senator Loren Legarda
Roundtable Discussions
Center for Strategic and International
Studies (CSIS), co-sponsored by the US-Philippines Society
20 April 2018

The Philippines and the United States have a long history of cooperation, one that has withstood the test of time. We can only see this further strengthening especially with our respective heads of state, President Rodrigo Duterte and President Donald Trump, affirming the very close ties between our two nations.

The Philippines remains committed to the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951, as reinforced by the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. The respective defense establishments of both parties continue to hold joint exercises and defense cooperation activities under the terms of these Agreements.

These efforts are aimed at reinforcing our respective national defense capabilities and interoperability and enhancing joint activities, disaster response, and cybersecurity.

Moreover, the United States is not only the countrys major security ally but also a key economic partner.

In 2016, the US was among the Philippines top foreign investors and third largest trading partner. The US accounted for 11.6 percent or $16.427 billion total trade in 2016.

As the Philippines continues to actively seek foreign investments, we are continuously working to improve the Philippines investment climate and address a number of challenges that tend to hamper investment growth.

Infrastructure constraints are now aggressively being addressed by the government through massive investments in the sector. The Duterte administration intends to spend around $158 billion over the next five years on its Build, Build, Build program, so that infrastructure spending would reach 7.3 percent of GDP by the end of the Presidents term.

Moreover, 70 percent of the revenues which are expected to be generated from the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) will be channeled to infrastructure investments of the government.

At the same time, we are revisiting the standards for transparency and ease of doing business on various fronts.

I believe that the countrys economic performance invites a more robust economic relations with the US. During the 2017 ASEAN Summits in Manila last year, the US welcomed the Philippines interest to negotiate a bilateral Free Trade Agreement. We are looking forward to both sides finishing their internal consultations soon so that negotiations may begin.

We also realize that sustained economic growth and economic prosperity are underpinned by political and internal stability. Thus, one of our main priorities will be strengthening cooperation with the US regarding counterterrorism initiatives. Another focus will be on counter-narcotics cooperation.

We likewise recognize that the United States remains an attractive destination for both permanent migrants and overseas Filipino workers. Here and elsewhere, we want to make sure that migration is supported by institutionalized mechanisms protecting labor, migrant and overall human rights.

The challenge for us is making sure we are able to provide adequate and necessary services to the large number of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans, including ensuring their continued ties to the home country; and helping manage continuous migration to ensure legal and documented migration from the standpoint of both Philippine and US governments.

There is much more to look forward to in terms of strengthening the partnership between our two nations and I hope that this dialogue can help further these areas of cooperation to mutually benefit our peoples.

Thank you.