US seeks robust engagement with PH in 2019

MANILA -- The United States expects better engagement with the Philippines in 2019 through increased military exercises, closer partnership on the economic front, and improved people-to-people ties.

"As I've mentioned, the exercises will continue, (I) expect it to be more robust than this year (and) I think our economic partnership will continue to grow. Filipino and Americans have deep respect for each other, I expect that to deepen in the years ahead," US Ambassador Sung Kim said in a CNN Philippines interview Wednesday.

Kim said the US-Philippines relations grew stronger in 2018 with the historic return of the Balangiga Bells to its original home in Eastern Samar.

"(It) symbolizes the state of the (US-Philippines) relationship, the depth of the relationship, and the mutual respect we have for each other," he added.

"Where we are going is I think the most exciting, I really believe the potential for this country and our relations is great. On the economic front, we continue to deepen our trade and investment ties," he said.

The envoy further said the share of American and Filipino nationals in both countries also reflects the two nations' positive people-to-people ties.

"People-to-people ties cannot be ignored, we have four million Filipino-Americans contributing to American society, (while) we have 250,000 Americans living in the Philippines. Our embassy continues to be the largest in visa-issuing, which means we continue to invite and send Filipino to the US for business, education, etc. I think our ties will continue to deepen in the years to come," he said.

Focused on exploring ways to improve Manila and Washington's partnership, Kim noted that the US does not consider the growing relations between China and the Philippines a concern.

"The fact that Philippines is interested in improving relations with China is not surprising and is not by itself a concern. I think all of the countries in the region wants to have a productive, constructive relationship with China, especially on trade and investment," he said.

"What I focus on is making sure that US-Philippines alliance continues, strong even as the Philippines improves relations with other countries including China," he added.

Kim, on the other hand, maintained that US would continue its commitment to uphold the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, where Beijing and Manila have overlapping claims. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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