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Ambassador Romualdez: Philippines-US ties now at its best

The diplomatic ties between the United States and the Philippines is currently at its best, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel "Babes" Romualdez said Wednesday.

"I think our relationship with the United States is at its best right now," Romualdez said during the hearing of the Commission on Appointments' committee on foreign affairs  on his nomination.

Romualdez, who also served as the Philippine Ambassador to the US during the previous administration, attributed this to the "independent foreign policy" of former President Rodrigo Duterte. He said the current administration will benefit from this.

"I would like to give credit to former President Duterte because his brand of foreign policy as far as the independent foreign policy is concerned has reverberated well here in Washington DC in the sense that we are not going to be taken for granted and are not taken for granted by the United States," he said.

"This is very important for us and I think that kind of attitude towards us is very important for us now and I think the administration of President [Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.] will be able to enjoy that kind of relationship that we have right now with the United States," he added.

Romualdez said one of the marching orders of Marcos is to increase economic activities with countries such as the US.

"One important matter that I think President Marcos has made clear to us is that he would like to increase our economic ties with countries like the US... mainly because he believes that the economy of the world is at stake especially after this pandemic. We all need to recover from it and I think that the global economy is very important and the US will be able to play a major role especially in our economic ties with the United States," he said.

"So that is sort of like the marching orders I got from the President that we will now increase our economic activities between our two countries," he added.

Being reappointed to the post, Romualdez said among the pending matters that he will be working on with the US is the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Former President Duterte earlier ordered the abrogation of the VFA after the US, a long-time Philippine defense and treaty ally, revoked the visa of his close ally, former police chief now senator Ronald Dela Rosa.

US officials did not cite a specific reason why Dela Rosa's visa was cancelled, but many speculated it was due to his involvement in Duterte's controversial war on drugs.

In July 2021, the former President had ordered the retraction of the termination of the VFA with the US.

The VFA is an implementation of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty forged by the US and the Philippines as security partners after World War II. It is a framework agreement that covers the treatment and presence of American forces in the country with or without war games.

The VFA also makes it possible for the US military to assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines in combating extremist groups by providing technical assistance and enemy surveillance to Filipino troops battling the militants.

At the same hearing, Romualdez mentioned that the sanctions imposed by several countries against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine had affected the Philippines' procurement of helicopters.

"I think one particular aspect that we have to remember is that these sanctions will mean that Russia will not be able to produce the helicopters that we ordered because there are parts that will be coming from western countries," he said.

"Therefore, I think in the end, we will not be able to get these helicopters...or rather continue with the procurement of these helicopters," he added.

Earlier this month, Romualdez said the Philippines is looking to buy Chinook helicopters from the United States after scrapping a deal with Russia worth P12.7 billion ($227.35 million) in order to avoid sanctions.

In June, days before President Rodrigo Duterte ended his six-year term, the Philippines scrapped a deal to buy 16 Mi-17 Russian military transport helicopters because of fears of US sanctions linked to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

On the reported hate crimes against Filipinos in the US, Romualdez said they already sent diplomatic notes to the US State Department.

Although there are undercover agents deployed in several areas in the US, specifically in New York, the diplomat said there is still a lot to be done such as coordinating with Asian communities and the US government.

The latest attack was reported by the Philippine Consulate General in New York City over the weekend involving a 74-year-old Filipina.

The bicameral commission has confirmed the appointment of Romualdez during the CA plenary session Wednesday.—AOL, GMA News