United States (US) Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim gave a lecture on the diplomatic relations of the US and the Philippines in a talk organized by the International Studies (IS) Department last November 26 at the Yuchengco Hall. In the session titled The United States Strategy for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific Region, Kim stressed the strong and deep alliance between the two countries, bringing up various aspects of their relationship.
Speaking of the facts that many Filipinos study in the US and that more Americans likewise are coming to the Philippines for education, Kim brought to light the countries’ academic cooperation, calling it “very robust” despite it not receiving much attention. He cited examples such as the International Education Exchange, which opened possibilities for more academic partnerships.
He proceeded to mention the roles of some US companies in the Philippine economy, such as their roles in being the Philippines’ largest employer and being among the country’s largest taxpayers. The ambassador went on to share a couple of developments in American companies he visited, mentioning one that has employed over 42,000 Filipinos.
“I think one of the great strengths of the Philippines is the young labor force that you have, and I’m glad US companies are benefiting from this amazing strength—but also creating opportunities for young Filipinos, including those of you who will be graduating from La Salle,” Kim remarked.
He stressed that the expansion of the economic and trade partnership between the two countries is in the interest of both their leaders, furthering that it was among the points US President Donald Trump and President Rodrigo Duterte discussed when the former was in the Philippines last year.
On the other hand, the ambassador also elaborated on the developments in the Philippines that happened through the assistance of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which has allocated over P80-billion from 2011 to 2017, and around P3-billion to the Marawi Response Project, which was used for long term civilization and rehabilitation of the conflicted area.
Furthermore, Kim also mentioned the strengthening of the military alliance between the two countries, one of the oldest alliances in the region which has been ongoing for 67 years.
He explained that the close ties between the US Military and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is strengthened through trainings, assistance, and equipment that the US provides, and that they are “committed to making their [AFP] military much more capable.”
These trainings focus on anti-piracy and disaster relief, aimed to make the military of both countries capable of handling possible future disasters.
Alongside military alliances, US law enforcement agencies are also represented in the Philippines, working against pressing issues such as human trafficking and child exploitation.
Kim recognized that officials of the US government may have talked often about the US’ commitment to the Indo-Pacific region, assuring that these were “sincere statements.” “The US understands the importance of the Indo-Pacific region, and [is] fully committed to being engaged here in the region,” he noted. He further added that the aim was to achieve a peaceful and secure Indo-Pacific region, along with an economic system that is open and transparent.
“At the core, at the center, a very important part of our Indo-Pacific strategy is our relationship with the Philippines,” he added, also stating that he expects the alliance with the country to continue to be an important part of the US strategy in the region.
Summarizing their strategy’s objectives, Kim declared that America wants to support the region with economic growth led by private sector activity. He further expressed that the US, like other countries in the region, wants to ensure “the freedom of the seas and skies,” insulate nations from external coercion, promote market-based economies, and support good governance—fundamental goals which he was certain the Philippines also shared.
‘Bringing the world to La Salle’
Kim’s lecture was part of a series of talks hosted by the IS Department for their new course offering, The Contemporary World, and for its ongoing objective of “bringing the world to La Salle.”
Darren Mangado, a teaching associate from the department, shared that the forum with the ambassador was only the series’ latest installment, following the recent lecture on Philippine sovereign rights helmed by acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio a week prior and an earlier event featuring guests from the Japanese embassy.
“The Contemporary World examines different trends in international relations, and this one…has something to do [with] knowing the different perspective [of] another country—so that’s the significance, perspective,” expounded Mangado.
He further expressed that students can definitely expect more events similar to the lecture, as the IS department usually organizes mini-forums and conferences. Department Chair Dr. Elaine Tolentino added that the talk with Kim is also in line with the celebration of the department’s 25th anniversary.