Statement of Senator Barack Obama on the U.S. Visit of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
U.S. Senator Barack Obama today released the following statement on the visit of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to the United States:
"I welcome the visit this week of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her delegation to the United States. President Arroyo's visit is an opportunity to strengthen our historic alliance, and to discuss a host of issues of mutual interest.
"I wish first to express my sympathies through President Arroyo to the victims and families of typhoon Fengshen, which has just hit the southern portion of the Philippines, leaving tremendous devastation in its wake. I urge the U.S. government to provide emergency support to alleviate the suffering caused by this catastrophic natural disaster.
"The bond between the United States and the Philippines is strong and enduring. The Philippines has been an important ally of the United States through World War II, the Cold War, and now the fight against terrorism and extremism. The 1954 Manila Pact formed a cornerstone of U.S. policy in Southeast Asia during the Cold War, and the Philippines continues to be one of only two U.S. treaty allies in Southeast Asia today. After the events of September 11, 2001, the Philippines has worked closely with the United States to root out Al Qaeda and its affiliates in the region.
"Annual joint military exercises, named "Balikatan," or "Shoulder-to-Shoulder," have been a model of cooperation, and form the core of U.S.-Philippine military-to-military activities to support the Philippines with its ongoing defense reform efforts. I support these continuing programs, including upgrading and enhancing the military's equipment and training.
"The agenda for President Arroyo's visit is full. Together, we must address many challenges going forward, including the future of ASEAN, the continuing tragedy in Burma, implementation of recently-authorized Millennium Challenge Account assistance, and alleviation of the effects of the global food crisis on the Philippines. We should deal with these challenges with confidence in the foundation of our common interests and the shared values on which our relationship is based.
"President Arroyo will also come to offer her appreciation for the United States Senate's passage of the Veterans' Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 in April. This legislation would offer Filipino veterans the benefits they rightfully deserve for their heroic service during World War II. Filipino and American troops fought bravely together under some of the most trying conditions suffered by any forces during that conflict. Filipinos displayed great courage alongside American soldiers at Bataan and Corregidor, only to be denied their just benefits by our government. I join President Arroyo in urging my colleagues in Congress to honor the heroic service of Filipino World War II veterans by finally turning this important legislation into law.
"The most important part of our bilateral relationship is the deep and abiding people-to-people bond that our two nations share. I grew up in Hawaii, where Filipinos have had an enormous positive impact on the culture and the economy. Across the United States, generations of Filipino immigrants have enriched our society and contributed to building a more vibrant United States of America. The continuing bond they have with the land of their heritage resonates in the strong families and communities they have woven into the fabric of American society. As dedicated citizens, Filipino Americans--4 million strong-- embody our nation's highest ideals.
"The Philippines has a proud legacy as Asia's first democracy, a legacy that should be honored and cherished but never taken for granted by the American people. I have great hope for the Philippines and admiration for its people. I extend a warm welcome to President Arroyo on her visit to the United States, and I look forward to working with her and her country in years to come as the Philippine people work together with us toward a better and more secure future for our two nations, for Asia, and for the world."