WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than 300 guests from the United States Government, foreign diplomatic corps, private sector, and the Filipino-American community gathered at the Pavilion Floor of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center on 09 June 2016 to join the celebration of the 118th Anniversary of the Proclamation of Philippine Independence and the 70th Anniversary of the Establishment of Philippines-US diplomatic relations.
“I am confident that we have laid the necessary groundwork for the incoming Administration to further strengthen Philippines-US alliance on a variety of fronts,” Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. said in his welcome remarks.
“The steady development of Philippines-US relations in the past six years can be attributed to the leadership and commitment of the leadership of both the Philippines and the US to boost the treaty alliance. I also fully appreciate the strong bipartisan support the Philippines has received from Capitol Hill,” the envoy added.
In his speech, US Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken reaffirmed the critical role of the Philippines-US alliance in America’s rebalance to Asia and his Government’s support for the Philippine position on the South China Sea.
“Today we celebrate not only 118 years of independence but seven extraordinary decades of partnership that have enriched every facet of our societal foundations,” Deputy Secretary Blinken said.
“Today, we stand shoulder-to-shoulder against a range of complex global challenges—including countering violent extremism, responding to cybersecurity threats, fighting climate change, defending space for civil society and press, and upholding international law, including important principles like freedom of navigation. We have consistently defended your right to use peaceful dispute settlement mechanisms, such as arbitration, to address maritime disputes in the South China Sea. The arbitral tribunal’s decision will be binding on both parties. We call on all of the claimants and interested parties to exercise restraint and reinvigorate efforts to find a peaceful, diplomatic way forward,” he further said.
The Deputy Secretary of State also paid tribute to Ambassador Cuisia, whom he called “ambassador among ambassadors,” for “convening and building consensus not only in the name of a more unified ASEAN but helping to strengthen ASEAN ties with the United States.”
“Thanks in great part to your leadership, the United States and the Philippines count on an increasingly strong security partnership. This is a remarkable legacy,” Deputy Secretary Blinken stated.
Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) cited two important initiatives for the benefit of the Filipino and Filipino-American World War II veterans: the Parole Program and the Congressional Gold Medal bill.
Under the Parole Program, certain family members of Filipino World War II veterans may be eligible to receive a discretionary grant of parole to come to the United States before their visa becomes available. In limited cases, certain eligible relatives will be able to seek parole on their own behalf when their Filipino World War II veteran and his or her spouse are both deceased. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services will review each case individually to determine whether authorizing parole is appropriate.
Meanwhile, the Congressional Gold Medal bill seeks to give due recognition to the valor and sacrifice of the 260,000 Filipino and Filipino-American veterans who fought for liberty and freedom in the second World War.
Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), co-chair of the US-Philippines Friendship Caucus in Capitol Hill, and Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) both lauded the contributions of Filipino-Americans to the growth and prosperity of their respective states.
Ms. Dana Hyde, Chief Executive Officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), summarized the accomplishments of the Philippines’ First Compact with the MCC on poverty reduction, and expressed optimism about attaining a similarly successful outcome by the Second Compact that will focus on agriculture.
This year, the Embassy awarded a Certificate of Achievement to Ms. Loida Nicolas-Lewis and Ms. Victoria Navarro for their active role in projecting a positive image of the Philippines in the United States.
Ms. Lewis was commended for her vision, leadership, and determination, and for being a driving force behind major Filipino-American groups, such as the US Pinoys for Good Governance and the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations.
On the other hand, Ms. Vicky Navarro was recognized for her diligent and resolute work with the Philippine Nurses Association of America and the Philippine Humanitarian Coalition.
Officially starting the reception program was the launch of the documentary film “Friendship Beyond Treaties,” which was a joint project of the Embassy and the Philippines’ national broadcaster, the People’s Television Network, Inc, to mark the 70th anniversary of Philippines-US diplomatic ties.
“Indeed, the Philippines and the United States are bound by a close friendship – a friendship that springs from shared values and common advocacies. The documentary film that was shown earlier underscores how strong personal bonds drive Philippines-US relations,” Ambassador Cuisia said.
“Friendship Beyond Treaties” may be viewed here.
Two of the most highly regarded Filipino musical artists, Ms. Lani Misalucha and Mr. Martin Nievera, performed the US and Philippine national anthems, respectively. After the Embassy’s formal reception, Lani and Martin headlined a special concert celebrating the “dynamic diplomacy” of Ambassador Cuisia, who is due to end his tour of duty at the end of June.
This year’s Independence Day celebration was supported by Ayala Land, Banco De Oro, International Container Terminal Services, Inc., PLDT, SM Prime Holdings, Inc. San Miguel Corporation, and The Filipino Channel.