By Jose Katigbak, STAR Washington Bureau (The Philippine Star) @ http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2012/06/09/815219/p-noy-wont-drag-us-military-west-phl-sea-dispute
WASHINGTON – President Aquino assured Americans he would not drag the United States in any military intervention in the West Philippine Sea crisis and said he was committed to defusing the tension in Panatag Shoal where Chinese and Philippine vessels have been locked in a standoff since April.
In a speech at the launching of the United States-Philippine Society, Aquino said his administration was engaged in a dialogue with China to find a mutually beneficial way to break the impasse.
“We fully intend to come up with a solution that will maintain the peace and stability of the region while at the same time upholding the dignity and sovereign rights of our people,” he said.
“It is not our intention to embroil the United States in military intervention in our region. At the same time we do recognize that our two nations, with so many other nations, will all share in the peace and prosperity that comes from the US adding its voice to supporting and guaranteeing a rules-based international system,” he said.
The President, who is on a three-day official visit to Washington, will meet President Barack Obama at the White House on Friday (today) at which time he is expected to lay out his request for US military materiel to build a credible defense force.
Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Secretary Ricky Carandang told reporters he did not know how specific Aquino would get because of time constraints “but certainly the broad strokes of what we need will be brought up.”
He emphasized the Philippines was trying to acquire equipment to enhance its defense and not its offensive capability “so that should put to rest concerns other countries might have about our intentions.”
“It is not our intention to enter into an arms race,” he said.
In his speech Aquino spoke about his anti-corruption drive and was greeted with a prolonged applause.
He said the Senate expulsion of Renato Corona as chief justice of the Supreme Court for unexplained wealth was a giant step for the Philippines “especially since in today’s global environment, a culture of transparency and accountability is a major competitive advantage.”
“The economy grew by 6.4 percent in the first quarter of this year and my economic team tells me this is just the beginning and they expect better numbers in the succeeding quarters,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Aquino met officials of GN Power which is currently operating two 300-megawatt coal-fired power plants in Mariveles, Bataan. GN hopes to unveil 2,300 MW power plants in the Philippines for $1 billion by 2015.
He also met with Underwriters Laboratories, an Illinois-based company that is investing in a global technology and research center in Manila.
In his briefing, Carandang said having a credible defense force would make potential aggressors think twice before attacking the Philippines.
“If someone wants to attack us we may not be able to hold them off forever, but we can make it very costly for them economically, militarily and politically,” he said.
President Aquino was also honored with a bipartisan Senate reception at Capitol Hill.
He later conferred on Sen. Richard Lugar, a long-time friend of the Philippines, the order of Lakandula with rank of Grand Supremo.
Lugar was the author of a US senate resolution passed on the eve of Aquino’s arrival here calling for increased defense and security cooperation with the Philippines, including support for its defense modernization.
In Manila, Defense spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said the US Senate resolution is also likely to have a positive impact on US-Philippine economic relations.
“Other than promoting greater alliance and enhance security ties, there’s also an economic side to include reforms and trade capacity building,” Galvez said.
He also said the resolution was a reaffirmation of US commitment to help the country.
“It’s a common practice to reiterate issues. People change, administration changed. It would always be good to reiterate our commitment to each other,” he said.
For Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, the Senate resolution proves that the US will keep a commanding presence in the region.
“America will always be a Pacific power. So it cannot allow anybody in this part of the world to dominate the Pacific area,” Enrile said.
“Ang America hindi nila maaring pabayaan ang Pilipinas. Sila ang nagdala ng demokrasya sa Pilipinas. Sa kaisipan ng buong mundo, ang Pilipinas ay creation ng US (America will never abandon the Philippines. They brought democracy to the Philippines. To the world, the Philippines is a creation of the US),” Enrile said.
Meanwhile, the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said it would launch protest actions in Manila and in major US cities to coincide with Aquino’s US working visit.
“Aquino’s visit to the United States is the culmination of months of meetings, negotiations and discussions for increasing US troop presence in the country and reaffirming unequal economic and politico-military relations. Aquino and US President Barack Obama are expected to once again reaffirm Philippine-US special ties which are nothing more than neo-colonial relations,” Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said.
He said Bayan-US chapter will lead protest actions in Los Angeles, Washington, New York and San Francisco.
The Human Rights Watch, for its part, said Obama needs to speak frankly with Aquino regarding the alarming record of abuses committed by Philippine security forces. “Accountability for abuses is not only a matter of justice for victims, but vital for the Philippines’ future as a rights-respecting democracy,” said John Sifton, HRW Asia advocacy director.
“Rather than arguing, making promises, and offering excuses, President Aquino should focus on ending and prosecuting extrajudicial executions,” Sifton said. “He should let actions do the talking.”
He also said US military expansion in Asia should not deter Obama from raising human rights concerns. – With Jaime Laude, Christina Mendez, Rhodina Villanueva, Pia Lee-Brago