Press Release
December 5, 2013

Joint Press Briefing of Senate President Franklin M. Drilon
and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg

US Ambassador Philip Goldberg: I'd like to thank the Senate President for his very warm welcome this morning. I'm meeting all the leaders of all the branches of the government. I wanted to come by and pay my respect also to the Senate. We had a chance to discuss some issues that you are very familiar with, the typhoon relief that the international community has been partnering with the Philippine government in addressing. I express again my condolences, the United States' condolences, for the suffering and devastation in the Eastern Visayas. We had a chance to discuss a range of issues that affect both our countries, about the partnership that the US and the Philippines enjoy. So, we had a very friendly discussion and I'm very happy to be at the Senate, very happy to be here in the Philippines.

SP DRILON: We welcome the ambassador to the Senate today and reiterated our strong ties with his country. We thank the ambassador and the US government through the ambassador for the quick assistance that the US extended to our country, nearly $52 million worth of assistance on the relief operation was extended by the United States government. We also discussed the next phase which is principally the rehabilitation of these areas and we discussed the bureaucracy at the federal level of the US government how they respond to disasters such as this. They had Katrina and Sandy. In our case, we still have an ad hoc council that handles relief and rehabilitation. We are looking at the possibility of having a permanent government structure instead of what we have today. We are looking at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and how it works. I understand a lot of improvement happened after Katrina and we're looking at that to see the good practices we can adopt here so we'll be able to respond effectively to disasters that will visit us in the future. No question about that. So, we'll be looking at that rather than an ad hoc council that we have today in our bureaucracy which because of the lack of a permanent structure, the President found need to appoint a rehabilitation czar in Senator Lacson. So, we discussed that with the Ambassador and we expressed our appreciation once more for his time that he devoted this morning in the Senate. We look forward to working with the Ambassador on matters that will involve the legislature.

Q: As the US Ambassador of the Philippines now, what are your plans and priorities in particular?

Goldberg: Well, of course, the immediate plans, as the Senate President has said, have been dominated by the relief efforts now going to rehabilitation stage. There is almost $60 million at this point that the United States has committed to relief efforts. Now, we are looking at the rehabilitation stage, but that is an immediate concern. On a different level, sort of a more expansive look, what we're interested in is a heightened partnership. Something that represents the 21st century in terms of our relationship, a partnership that is able to expand our economic interaction that provides for the prosperity of both our peoples, allows us to go further than we have and perhaps in the past, that means in a concrete term, ideas like the Transpacific Partnership. Other kinds of economic opportunities in the future, not immediately. That will be very much in our agenda. I had the great privilege of being with a group of ASEAN youth exchange from various countries in the region who are here in Makati in a conference that we are sponsoring. That's the kind of effort that we want to both engage in. We are trying to develop the youth of our countries in promoting greater integration as well as opportunities. There are certain security issues that we discussed and in areas that we can heighten our partnership as the Senate President said, in terms of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. There's a whole range of things that we can do to try to raise our partnership in a way that reflects the rise of Asia, the rise of United States' interest in Asia and a partnership that has endured a long time but adapting it to the new 21st century.

Q: You talked about heightened partnership in security issues. Were you able to discuss the plan to increase the rotational presence of US troops and if there's a need to amend the existing laws or for that new agreement to go through Congress or Senate?

Goldberg: I will allow the Senate President to discuss what needs to be done in the Philippines. The legislature here is the Senate's business but we had a chance to talk about it because it's really unavoidable. The context of events, the first one being the typhoon relief and what I think the framework agreement can do to help in the rotational presence, to help in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, being able to preposition supplies in able to do things to help here and working with the Armed Forces of the Philippines to help in that. As everyone saw, the first stage in disaster relief is often the military. Then, we move to the civilian side. So, we did discuss it and but I will leave it to the Senate President to discuss anything that might be needed on this side.

SP: There will be no permanent basing of American troops as a result of the increased rotational presence that we are discussing now with the US government. I have briefed the Ambassador of the necessity of a treaty where it could involve permanent basing. The discussions clearly indicate that there would be no permanent basing here and as emphasized by Ambassador Goldberg, it would be beyond the military aspect of the relationship. Many aspects including humanitarian and relief readiness would be enhanced by the agreement being discussed.

Q: There's this growing concern about China's Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), my question is, is there a reason for the Philippines to fear China setting up a similar zone over South China Sea?

Goldberg: We have expressed that concern about the ADIZ concept. I would reiterate it. Vice President Biden who has been visiting Japan and China had spoken about it as have Secretaries Kerry and Hagel, Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense. So, I think you know where we stand and that is we think we should be working very much to reduce tensions, whether that is in Southeast Asia or Northeast Asia. That is our goal. One of our problems with the way that this is handled is that it is a unilateral decision. No consultation. It involves an ADIZ where when we implement it, we don't ask for such identification from flights not entering the United States airspace. But the fact that it is a unilateral decision, is something that could raise tensions, possibly involve miscalculations. It is something that we need to avoid. We would make it clear both as a matter of principle and operationally. The Vice President, I know, has made it clear during his visit to Japan and China. So, I think we need to work to reduce tensions, to work to make sure there aren't miscalculations. We shouldn't try or speculate about additional measures. Let's reduce, not increase.

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