PH role in US Indo-Pacific strategy cited

By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

February 9, 2019, 5:02 pm

<p>US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Walter Douglas in a press conference in Manila on August 29, 2018. <em>(PNA p</em><em>hoto by Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)</em></p>

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Walter Douglas in a press conference in Manila on August 29, 2018. (PNA photo by Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

MANILA -- A ranking US State Department official reaffirmed the Philippines' role, as a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), in advancing Washington's bid for an open and free Indo-Pacific region.

"ASEAN centrality is absolutely essential in what we do and the Philippines is a key player in ASEAN," US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Walter Douglas said in an interview on the sidelines of the US-Philippines Think Tank Conference in Makati on Friday.

"Coming here is a great opportunity. I get to speak about the Indo-Pacific. People spoke about it. I think that's just one more way we could advance the Indo-Pacific vision to encompass all of ASEAN, but the Philippines has obviously been a key player in all that," he added.

Back in 2018, Douglas announced that the Philippines is to receive a large chunk of security assistance from the US, a recognition of the "long-term partnership" Washington has with Manila on the security front.

In July 2018, the US Embassy in Manila also announced a contribution amounting to about USD26.5 million to boost Philippine law enforcement agencies' counterterrorism efforts over the next two years.

Citing the robust cooperation between the two nations, Douglas said he sees a "very bright" future for US-Philippines ties.

"The future will be very bright that way but we do have to make sure we understand what each other wants and what each other's looking for as we do go forward," he said.

The recently concluded US-Philippine Think Tank Conference tackled various issues of mutual interest to Manila and Washington, such as responding to regional challenges in Asia and the future of its 67-year-old military alliance.

The two countries' security alliance is rooted in the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, the Philippines’ sole and longest defense pact with another state.

The Philippine government first floated the proposal to review the agreement and make it relevant to the region’s changing security environment in December 2018.

In the conference, Ambassador Sung Kim said "if there are any adjustments that would be useful, certainly we would welcome an opportunity to make adjustments." (PNA)