From Bataan to Typhoon, Obama Praises U.S.-Philippine Alliance
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 29, 2014 From the jungles of Bataan to the rubble following Typhoon Yolanda, American and Philippine troops have worked together to make the region a better place, President Barak Obama told American and Philippine service members near Manila yesterday.
The Philippines was the last stop on the president’s four-nation swing through Asia. He also visited Japan, South Korea and Malaysia. “I’m here in the Philippines to reaffirm the enduring alliance between our two countries,” the president saidduring a stop at Fort Bonifacio.
Obama thanked President Benigno Aquino III for his hospitality and the meetings that forged deeper ties between the two nations.
Near the fort is the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, which the president visited after the speech. It is the burial ground for more than 17,000 American and Filipino service members from World War II. It also memorializes more than 36,000 missing in action in the Pacific during the war.
“These Americans and Filipinos rest in peace as they stood in war – side by side, shoulder to shoulder – balikatan,” he said. Balikatan characterizes American and Filipino cooperation. Yearly, the U.S. and Philippines military participate in Exercise Balikatan.
“Together, Filipinos and Americans put up a heroic defense, at Bataan and Corregidor,” Obama said. “Together, they endured the agony of the Death March and the horror of the prisoner of war camps. Many never made it out. In those years of occupation, Filipino resistance fighters kept up the struggle. And hundreds of thousands of Filipinos fought under the American flag.”
The president noted that the service of these Philippine fighters under the U.S. flag was finally recognized. “We passed a law, reviewed the records, processed claims, and nearly 20,000 Filipino veterans from World War II and their families finally received the compensation they had earned,” he said.
Some of those veterans – now in their 90s – were in the audience, and the president recognized their service.
“The spirit of these veterans – their strength, their solidarity – I see it in you as well when you train and exercise together to stay ready for the future,” Obama said.
U.S. and Philippine service members work together against terrorists, and American service members stand ready to work with their allies in the event of a disaster. The response to Typhoon Yolanda was the latest example of this. “Along with your civilian partners, you rushed into the disaster zone, pulled people from the rubble, delivered food and medicine,” Obama said. “You showed what friends can do when we take care of each other.”
Obama said more will be done in the future under a new defense agreement between the two nations signed during this trip. “American forces can begin rotating through Filipino airfields and ports,” the president said. “We’ll train and exercise together more to bring our militaries even closer, and to support your efforts to strengthen your armed forces. We’ll improve our ability to respond even faster to disasters like Yolanda. Today, I thank the people of the Philippines for welcoming our service members as your friends and partners.”
The ten year agreement is part of the greater vision to deepen American relations in the region. “We believe that nations and peoples have the right to live in security and peace, and to have their sovereignty and territorial integrity respected,” Obama said. “We believe that international law must be upheld, that freedom of navigation must be preserved and commerce must not be impeded.
The president further stated that disputes must be resolved peacefully and not by intimidation or force.
“Let me be absolutely clear,” he said. “For more than 60 years, the United States and the Philippines have been bound by a mutual defense treaty. And this treaty means our two nations pledge … our ‘common determination to defend themselves against external armed attacks, so that no potential aggressor could be under the illusion that either of them stands alone.’
“In other words, our commitment to defend the Philippines is ironclad and the United States will keep that commitment, because allies never stand alone,” he said.