Phl, US to strengthen de­fense ties, re­spect HR

The Philippine Star - - FRONT PAGE - By CHRISTINA MEN­DEZ and PIA LEE-BRAGO – With Jess Diaz

Pres­i­dent Duterte and United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump have reaf­firmed their com­mit­ment to the 1951 Mu­tual De­fense Treaty, which re­quires the Phi­ilip­pines and the US to come to the aid of each other in case of for­eign in­va­sion.

Their po­si­tion was con­tained in a joint state­ment is­sued af­ter the two lead­ers’ bi­lat­eral meet­ing on Mon­day dur­ing which they also un­der­lined their com­mit­ment to up­hold hu­man rights and the dig­nity of life.

The meet­ing was held on the side­lines of the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN) Sum­mit and Re­lated Meet­ings in Manila, which con­cluded yes­ter­day. Their state­ment also took note of the MDT’s be­ing re­in­forced by the En­hanced De­fense Co­op­er­a­tion Agree­ment or EDCA, which al­lows the ro­ta­tional de­ploy­ment of US troops in the Philip­pines and their use of lo­cal mil­i­tary bases.

In their joint state­ment, Duterte and Trump also con­demned North Korea for threat­en­ing re­gional sta­bil­ity with its nu­clear weapons pro­gram. They called on Py­ongyang to com­ply with UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tions on nu­clear dis­ar­ma­ment.

“The two sides un­der­scored that hu­man rights and the dig­nity of hu­man life are es­sen­tial, and agreed to con­tinue main­stream­ing the hu­man rights agenda in their national pro­grams to pro­mote the wel­fare of all sec­tors, in­clud­ing the most vul­ner­a­ble groups,” the joint state­ment re­leased by the White House read.

The re­lease of the doc­u­ment fol­lowed Duterte’s and Trump’s bi­lat­eral meet­ing last Mon­day.

Pres­i­den­tial spokesman Harry Roque said on Mon­day the is­sue of hu­man rights was not discussed dur­ing the bi­lat­eral meet­ing. But White House Press Sec­re­tary Sarah San­ders said the is­sue was men­tioned briefly.

The two lead­ers agreed hu­man rights should al­ways be part of national pro­grams to pro­mote the wel­fare of all sec­tors, es­pe­cially the most vul­ner­a­ble ones.

Trump also com­mended the Philip­pines for its com­pli­ance with rel­e­vant UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions on North Korea.

The lead­ers urged ASEAN mem­ber-coun­tries and other na­tions to voice their op­po­si­tion to North Korea’s weapons pro­gram and take steps to­ward down­grad­ing their diplo­matic and eco­nomic en­gage­ment with Py­ongyang.

The state­ment said the two lead­ers discussed dur­ing their meet­ing the on­go­ing cam­paign against crim­i­nal­ity in the Philip­pines, es­pe­cially the drug trade.

“Both sides ac­knowl­edged that il­le­gal drug use is a prob­lem af­flict­ing both coun­tries and com­mit­ted to share best prac­tices in the ar­eas of pre­ven­tion; en­force­ment, in­clud­ing ca­pac­ity-build­ing and trans­parency in in­ves­ti­ga­tions; and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion,” the state­ment read.

Both lead­ers also took note of their coun­tries’ en­dur­ing al­liance that they said was built on a strong foun­da­tion of shared val­ues, sac­ri­fices and his­tory, and bol­stered by com­mon in­ter­ests and peo­ple-topeo­ple ties and full re­spect for le­gal and diplo­matic pro­cesses.

The two lead­ers also pledged to ex­pand co­op­er­a­tion while reaf­firm­ing their com­mit­ment to stronger bi­lat­eral al­liance.

They said the part­ner­ship has stood the test of time and has im­mensely con­trib­uted to re­gional peace, sta­bil­ity and eco­nomic pros­per­ity. ASEAN cel­e­brates its 50th an­niver­sary this year and the 40th year of its re­la­tions with the US.

Trump ap­plauded the Philip­pines’ chair­man­ship of the ASEAN and ex­pressed his con­do­lences to the fam­i­lies and loved ones of sol­diers and civil­ians killed in the siege of Marawi City by Is­lamic Statelinked mil­i­tants.

He also con­grat­u­lated the Armed Forces of the Philip­pines (AFP) for its suc­cess in lib­er­at­ing Marawi.

He vowed con­tin­ued US sup­port for the Philip­pines’ fight against ter­ror­ism as well as for the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of Marawi.

The joint state­ment also cited US ef­forts to help mod­ern­ize the AFP, de­velop ca­pac­ity and ca­pa­bil­ity for mar­itime se­cu­rity and do­main aware­ness, and pro­vide rapid hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance.

KRIZJOHN ROS­ALES

Pres­i­dent Duterte hands over the gavel to Sin­ga­porean Prime Min­is­ter Lee Hsien Loong dur­ing a trans­fer of Asean chair­man­ship at the clos­ing cer­e­monies of the 31st Asean Sum­mit last night.

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