Remarks With Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario


John Kerry
Secretary of State
Department of Foreign Affairs
Manila, Philippines
December 17, 2013

MODERATOR: Friends from the media, let us welcome the arrival of the Honorable Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert S. del Rosario and His Excellency, John F. Kerry, Secretary of State of the United States of America.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Honorable Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert S. del Rosario and His Excellency, John F. Kerry, Secretary of State of the United States of America, will now give their respective statements on the results of the bilateral meeting between the two countries.

Secretary del Rosario.

SECRETARY DEL ROSARIO: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It was my pleasure and privilege to have welcomed the Secretary of State John Kerry and his delegation to the Philippines. John, I’d like to take this opportunity to once again reiterate our deep appreciation for the tremendous assistance and support that we received in the aftermath of Yolanda in terms of expressions of sympathy, and of course the support which was huge, and included the search-and-rescue teams, relief operations, as well logistics, including 50 – over 50 aircraft and sea vessels. And this also reflected itself in terms of 1,000 U.S. soldiers and Marines on the ground who offered direct assistance and without a doubt helped to save many lives.

We are deeply moved by this, John, and I must say to you that we are very grateful, and I also received from the good Secretary the support for the Philippines in terms of the dauntless task that’s ahead for recovery and reconstruction for the Philippines.

Based on our shared history, our shared values, our shared aspirations, John, the Secretary and I continue to work incessantly on promoting the various dimensions of our bilateral relations that extend from political to defense and security, to economic cooperation, to regional and global concerns. We discussed on how we would elevate our alliance to another level, and this came in the form of the framework on increased rotational presence which we are currently negotiating. We discussed the ways on which we will be able to address transnational threats. We discussed how we would address counterterrorism, the securing of our maritime borders. And this is receiving a significant boost from the Global Security Fund that has been made available to us, which essentially assists our coast guard and as well our PNP, Philippine National Police.

We discussed to a large extent economic cooperation, how this will be expanded, and what areas we’re moving towards. We discussed the TPP. We discussed, for example, the Partners For Growth, Millennium Challenge, how that’s progressing. And we looked at this in terms of how we can be helpful to good governance, to inclusive growth, and to (inaudible).

We discussed as well the WPS, our favorite topic, and the ADIZ, and of course the elements on freedom of navigation and of course adherence to the rule of law. We discussed other topics and – which are of mutual interest. And finally, we reiterated the commitment that we will continue to work towards a more effective partnership and as well a closer friendship.

So thank you, Mr. Secretary. Thank you, everyone.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you very much, Albert. Mangandang hapon. Good afternoon, everybody. I’m very happy to be here. And I want to thank my good friend, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario. He is always very generous in his relationships with us, and especially in his welcome to me. We have met now on the side of meetings in Brunei, in Bali, and we have met in Washington, and now I have an opportunity to be able to come here back to Manila. And I’m very, very pleased to be here with you, Albert. I very much look forward later this evening to meeting with President Aquino at the Malacanang Palace.

And for me, it really is a special pleasure to be able to be back in Manila. First of all, there’s such a great energy in the Philippines today. The economy of the Philippines over the course of the last year has been one of the fastest growing in the world. And I know having my previous visit canceled because of a typhoon, a storm, I’m particularly grateful that President Aquino and Foreign Secretary del Rosario gave me the forbearance to be able to reschedule. I said I would come before the end of the year, and I’m glad that I am here before the end of the year.

I have really always marveled at the amazing spirit of the Filipino people, and I’ve come to know it. I know something about it. First of all, we obviously, all of us in the world, marvel at the remarkable resilience and strength of the Filipino people in responding to the terrible devastation of Typhoon Yolanda. Mr. Secretary, the world has seen your strength and the strength of your people, and we admire it.

Since the typhoon hit, I’m proud to say that the United States has worked very, very closely with our partners in the Philippines. And I’m very grateful on behalf of the American people to Secretary del Rosario for his comments of thanks. The American people are proud to help, and the American people, I think, take great pride in the fact that there is a spirit in our country of helping those in distress, but also there is a special affection for the Philippines. We have been tied together for a long time, and in our meeting today, I reassured the Foreign Secretary of the United States’ commitment to stand by the Philippines as they go through the process now of the recovery and the reconstruction.

We have a long tradition of working together on these kinds of things, from countering extremism to strengthening our economic ties, our maritime security, to fighting poverty and creating the conditions for broad-based prosperity and growth. One of the most enduring aspects of our legacy, our partnership, are the binding ties, the personal ties, between our people. More than 300,000 American citizens live in the Philippines, and nearly four million people of Filipino origin live in the United States and contribute in so many ways to America’s diverse cultural heritage.

I’ve had personal connections to the Philippines for a long period of time, but most recently in 1986, I became involved as a young senator in the effort to have an accountable election when President Marcos called a snap election, and to make certain that democracy was restored in the Philippines. I worked with then-to-become President Cory Aquino and with NAMFREL and others, and I’m proud that during that period of time, I got to travel around the Philippines and see people voting. I will never forget being in Danao and then later up here in Manila and watching people stand, thousands at a time in line, for the privilege of voting, of having their fingers stamped and their thumbs, and of standing in the hot sun in order to make democracy work. It was inspiring. And I’ll never forget the look on the faces of people who were voting for the first time, and the yellow shirts and waving their pro-democracy banners. The courage of the Filipino people then lit a spark that actually traveled around the world, and it inspired not just a young freshman senator from Massachusetts, but it inspired popular movements from Eastern Europe to Burma.

The United States is proud of the rich history that we share and our enduring alliance with the Philippines, which is an important democracy and one of America’s key treaty allies in the dynamic Asia Pacific region, one of our five allies. As the foreign secretary and I discussed today, the United States is committed to working with the Philippines to address its most pressing security challenges. That’s why we are negotiating a strong and enduring framework agreement that would enhance defense cooperation under our alliance, including through an increased rotational presence of U.S. forces in Philippines. And that’s why we have committed $40 million for a new initiative to improve the Philippines’s maritime security and maritime domain awareness.

That’s also why we support efforts to reduce tensions surrounding the territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea in two important ways – first, we strongly support ASEAN’s efforts with China to move quickly to conclude a code of conduct as a key to reducing the risk of accidents or miscalculation. In that process, we think that claimants have a responsibility to clarify their claims and to align their claims with international law. That is the way to proceed in resolving any disputes over the South China Sea – peacefully, and with international law.

Second, we support internationally recognized dispute resolution mechanisms such as those that are provided in the Law of the Sea Convention. The United States strongly opposes the use of intimidation, coercion, or aggression to advance territorial claims. And I assured the foreign secretary that the United States remains firmly committed to the security of the Philippines and the region. Today, I raised our deep concerns about China’s announcement of an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone. I told the foreign secretary that the United States does not recognize that zone and does not accept it. The zone should not be implemented, and China should refrain from taking similar unilateral actions elsewhere in the region, and particularly over the South China Sea.

I am also pleased to announce that the United States and the Philippines have negotiated an MOU to cooperate in the restoration, operation, and maintenance of Clark Veterans Cemetery. This agreement is not just another piece of paper. It’s about upholding a sacred promise to honor those who served and sacrificed on all of our behalf. So I am enormously gratified that we are ensuring that the 8,600 Americans and Filipinos who are buried on the hallow grounds of that cemetery will receive the respect and the dignity that they deserve. And I might add I was honored today to lay a wreath at the cemetery here in Manila where some 17,201 American and Filipino men and women are buried from World War II. That is the largest cemetery in which Americans are buried from World War II, and it is a remarkable place and it is a humbling tribute to the links between us in our struggle for freedom and for democracy and for dignity.

The United States is also one of the Philippines largest trading partners in Asia. Last year, $22 billion crossed between us in two-way trade. So we look forward to working with the Philippines to further deepen our trade relationship, understanding that this benefits both of us, that it creates jobs in America, in the Philippines – puts people to work, it raises the standard of living, but it also raises the standard of doing business, and that works for everybody.

So we discussed today the possibilities of the Philippines interest in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is a trade pact that will raise standards and increase broad-based sustainable economic growth throughout the region. And we will be welcoming an initial team to engage with us in early January to have technical discussions regarding this possibility.

All of you know that the Philippines is, of course, an ASEAN state. And the Philippines participation in the U.S.-ASEAN Expanded Economic Engagement Initiative is helping to strengthen the relationship of 10 countries of ASEAN, and lay the groundwork for these nations’ future participation in high-standard agreements such as the TPP. Nearly three decades ago, an unassuming political novice, courageous leader by the name of Corazon Aquino rose to the presidency on the top of a wave called People Power.

Just as the United States did then, today we will stand ready to be a partner in helping the Filipino people realize their full promise. As we meet today’s challenges and chart a path forward together, we draw strength from the principle of the foundation of our shared history, and we look forward to strengthening our relationship by bringing you the greetings of President Obama, who looks forward to coming to the region in the spring of next year, and we will continue to be present and accounted for in our relationships and in our efforts in this region.

Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

MODERATOR: Now, Secretary del Rosario and Secretary Kerry are ready to take a few questions from our media friends.

Manny, please.

QUESTION: Good afternoon, sirs. Manny Mogado from Reuters. You mentioned two developments in the South China Sea and the East China Sea – the ADIZ and the new condition of American warship with the Chinese warship. May we know what America is seeking from China, from the certain set of operational norms or rules, to (inaudible) this? And how soon can the two sides settle this issue to avoid miscalculation and accidents?

And can we ask Secretary del Rosario to comment on the issue since there’s a rising tension between China and the U.S., and there’s (inaudible) increased rotational presence of U.S. forces in the Philippines. Is the Philippines concerned about these developments? And what are our – what do we see? How can we be affected by this?

And my second part of the question is on the TPP. You said that there would be a technical team coming to the U.S. next month. How far can we go from here, since the Philippines has yet to amend its constitution to open up its economy? Thank you.

MODERATOR: Secretary Kerry.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, with respect to China, let me make it very clear. We don’t view the situation as one of rising tensions. That is not the way we view this, and we don’t want rising tensions, and we’re not looking to do anything except continue a process that President Obama initiated a number of years ago when he began the rebalance to Asia. And what we are involved in are normal processes by which we work with other countries in order to raise their maritime protection capacity. We all have interests in preventing smuggling and preventing terrorism and patrolling our borders and so forth.

So we’re not suggesting that we’re doing something out of the ordinary here. We don’t want anything except a rule-of-law approach to the resolution of any issues and conflicts. So when you say what do we want from China, we would hope to continue to work closely with China, as we are on North Korea and other issues – trade and so forth – in an effort to try to resolve these kinds of differences or questions in a peaceful way. We believe there is a structure that exists – the Law of the Sea structure, an arbitration process. We have not taken a position on the particular claims asserted by anybody. We have taken a position on the way that we think they should be resolved. So we support arbitration and we support rule of law. We do not support unilateral actions that have the impact of being provocative and raising the temperature and potential conflict.

So we are not approaching this with any particular view towards China except to say when China makes a unilateral move, we will state our position and make clear what we agree or disagree with, and that’s what we’ve done with respect to the ADIZ. We do not accept it. We think it is – there’s a way to approach it. A country has a right to establish an ADIZ. But it has to be done through a process of consultation, work with the International Aviation Organization, and in a way that other nations are consulted and work with it. And we think that’s the best way to proceed, and I think most countries in the world believe that’s the best way to proceed.

With respect to the TPP and how far can you go, that’s really a decision that the Philippines has to make. We’re here to talk about the possibilities. Your leaders will have to make their own judgments about those possibilities. And we encourage a robust debate. People may see benefits, they may see downsides, and it’s up to your leadership. We’re not going to presume to tell you what you ought to do or suggest anything, but we do think there are benefits in this agreement, and we hope the Philippines will see the benefits and want to seize them. It is completely up to your leaders to make their decisions about where to go.

MODERATOR: Secretary del Rosario.

SECRETARY DEL ROSARIO: I think on the ADIZ, we had stated an official position as far as China’s establishment of an ADIZ over the East China Sea. Our position was the – China, in doing this, effectively is attempting to transform an air zone into its own domestic airspace, and we think that this is – could lead to compromising freedom of flight in terms of civil aviation. It could also compromise, we believe, safety of and security of the affected nations.

We have called on China to ensure that their actions are not – do not jeopardize the regional security and stability, and we have actually taken the position that – of greater concern, we believe, are the announcements being made by the spokesperson of China and the Chinese ambassador to the Philippines that they will consider ADIZs in other areas in due course. Now, that, for us, is – it will be a problem if it is something that involves the South China Sea.

As far as the TPP is concerned, the president is – I believe is – would like us to positively explore to what extent we can participate, and the U.S. has offered guidance, and we are accepting that offer. And as a matter of fact, we have been meeting with USTR, and there is a technical consultation that will take place in January.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Manny.


QUESTION: Thank you. Indira Lakshmanan from Bloomberg News. First question is for Secretary del Rosario and also if Secretary Kerry can add anything to it. Japan has announced its new defense security strategy passed today by the Abe government, and China was quick to denounce it. Do you think that China’s concerns are overblown, or is – or has Japan not even gone far enough in expanding its military considering the constraints? If both of you could address that.

And then Secretary Kerry, on Syria, can you confirm that the U.S. is talking to the Islamic Front? And there were reports that the Islamic Front actually walked out of that meeting today. What do you hope to achieve by it? And also, your close colleague, the French Foreign Minister Fabius, has said that he’s pessimistic about the Geneva II conference actually happening. To get your thoughts on that?


MODERATOR: Secretary del Rosario.


SECRETARY DEL ROSARIO: Yeah. I’m afraid I’ll have to beg for your understanding and pass up that question. I’ve not been briefed on that. That happened this morning, you said. Once I take a look and come to a position, I will send you an email.


MODERATOR: Secretary Kerry.


SECRETARY KERRY: Well, as many of you know, the United States and Japan had what we call a 2+2 meeting a couple of months ago – 2+2 meaning both the Defense Secretary and the Secretary of State, their foreign minister, and their defense secretary, both of us meeting – and we met in Tokyo. And there, we laid out a plan going well into the future. It’s a joint vision of Japan-U.S. cooperation in terms of security for the region and elsewhere. Japan is increasingly playing a responsible, important role in terms of humanitarian assistance, peacekeeping – engagement in seeking peace, the Palestinian-Israeli issue, other issues.

And so our belief is that with respect to the participation in the overall challenges of this region, Japan has an ability to play an increasingly more modern and engaged role. This is something that we have been working on and they have been planning for some period of time. So again, this is not a sudden response to something or anything that anybody should get particularly upset about. It seems to me that we’re only talking about constructive efforts within internationally accepted frameworks, and for peaceful and appropriate purposes. And it is yet to be determined exactly what that role will be or exactly where they will go, but they have an ability to be able to participate more, and we welcome that in the context of our strategic thinking and in terms of our 2+2 engagement. So that is really a reflection, I think, of a path that we’ve been talking about for some period of time, what happened earlier today.

With respect to Syria, the Islamic Front, and Geneva II, the United States has not met yet to date with the Islamic Front. There has not been a discussion, but it’s possible that it could take place. There is an effort afoot among all of the supporter nations of the Syrian opposition, the moderate opposition, to want to broaden the base of moderate opposition and to broaden the base of representation of the Syrian people in the Geneva II negotiation. So there will be some discussions that the UN, Lakhdar Brahimi, the special envoy, and we and others – the UK, France, others in the region – will engage in, in order to make sure that the delegation that goes to Geneva will be as broadly representative as possible of the legitimate oppositionists who could be acceptable at that table. That obviously does not include the radical extremists and the worst elements that are to some degree on the ground.

With respect to Foreign Minister Fabius’s comments, I would just say that we continue to work very, very hard to aim towards Geneva II and the conference. And the reason is very simple – what is the alternative? There’s no alternative other than continued fighting, continued destruction, continued growth in the refugee population, continued potential disintegration of a whole country, and the continued increase of the numbers of radical extremists who are appearing on the scene to fill the void. That is dangerous. We have no choice but to push towards a Geneva conference.

Now, whether it happens, I believe that it can take place in January, but it’s – nobody’s ever suggested it’s going to be easy. Nobody ever suggested that this path is going to suddenly just happen like that and is going to produce an outcome. It is very difficult and it’s not going to happen that rapidly. But the alternative is far worse than fighting to get to the table to have a negotiation and have a negotiated resolution. And I will continue to push for that as well as others because we believe that’s the only solution to the problem of Syria. And so we must find a way to get to that negotiation. Whether it’s difficult or not or whether it has got big hurdles in front of it or not, there is no better alternative than trying to do that.


MODERATOR: Thank you. Next question, Tarra. This is the second to the last question.


QUESTION: Hi, good afternoon, sirs. I’m Tarra from the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Sir, the international community has repeatedly called for sovereignty and rule of law as regards to the situation in South China Sea. But it seems that China has repeatedly taken activities viewed as alarming or provocative, like the ADIZ and the refusal to take part in arbitration. Where do you think is the situation headed, and is there a tipping point, if any at all?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I think what’s important, folks, is to lower the intensity, avoid the provocations, work through international law, and for the claimants to stay united and to press international law as the means of resolving this. In my judgment, that is the best way to proceed. And I hope that ultimately, our – that the leaders in China will see the wisdom of engaging in that activity to work through any claims in those institutions and through those laws that were set up specifically to resolve those kinds of claims.

In this day and age, we should be long past the time of unilateral assertion and of coercion as a means of trying to back up that assertion. So our hope is that the parties will come together, continue to proceed through arbitration and international law, and I’m confident that that can ultimately resolve these kinds of questions. And I think we have to have faith in that kind of process. The United States will stand with our friends in this region who are asserting their efforts to try to resolve this through that kind of legal peaceful process. We think that’s the responsible way to proceed, and that’s what the United States will continue to support.


MODERATOR: The last question will come from Keith.


QUESTION: Keith Bradsher, The New York Times. There’s been talk in the Philippines of climate justice following Typhoon Haiyan or Typhoon Yolanda. Do you see the typhoon as a warning of further super-storms? And if it is, does the United States have a moral and/or financial obligation to provide assistance to the extent of its historical carbon emissions? Thank you.


MODERATOR: Secretary del Rosario.


SECRETARY DEL ROSARIO: Well, I think it has been said that the intensity of and force of Typhoon Yolanda could (inaudible) the expectation in the future that possibly Yolanda could be the norm. So I think that climate change should be such. This is, of course, a threat that we must address, and I think every country on its own must be prepared to address the expectation that Yolanda is not a once in a lifetime, that it may happen again. And that’s why the president has come up with a national plan for reconstruction that will actually be unveiled tomorrow.

And the plan calls for a – not only a build back, but a build back better so that we can enable ourselves to be in a position to withstand similar threats in terms of natural catastrophes. I think each country has got to make provisions for itself, and I think the community of nations hopefully will come to the assistance of nations that are – that suffer this misfortune. That’s – we are a village, a global village, and I think we need to help one another. And natural catastrophes do not choose whether you’re a wealthy country or a poor country. I think that is the reality of what’s happening.

And we are – of course, we’ve reached a point in Yolanda where we’re realizing that the outpouring of support, the overwhelming support we’ve received from the international community, is something that we did not expect. And so we see in our neighbors, in the rest of the global community, we see a face of kindness and a spirit of generosity, and we’re ultimately very grateful for that.


MODERATOR: Secretary Kerry.


SECRETARY KERRY: I’ve been involved in this issue since the 1980s, and I believe in the science of climate change. I believe the scientists who tell us that it is happening, that human beings are contributing to it – a significant cause of the increase of emissions which is creating major changes across the planet. And the scientists predict that we will see massive changes in agriculture, in ecosystems, in fisheries, in water supplies, food security, increased heat, fires, and intensity in storms.

Now, having said everything I just said, science cannot prove that Typhoon Yolanda was specifically the result of climate change. It is not possible to make that direct linkage at this point in time, even though they are predicting greater intensity of storms, but over time a pattern will evolve, and that may become more determinative.

Nevertheless, what we face today is sufficient to say that developed nations in the world need to take the lead in order to reduce emissions and begin to deal with this problem that lots of nations, like the Pacific Islands and others who haven’t caused anything, are feeling the consequences of. That is why we have a major emitters forum of the top 20 emitting countries who are working towards taking steps both of mitigation and prevention.

And President Obama has taken the initiative to put in place a climate action plan in the United States, and is trying to achieve by administrative effort what he cannot get through the United States Congress. And we have taken strong measures on automobile efficiency, new standards for tailpipes on power generation, new power plants, and other things. So we are responding.

We have also responded by trying to help other countries to be able to develop their energy programs, to use USAID for clean and alternative energy and renewable energy and other kinds of programs, as well as to engage in some planning for mitigation and to help other countries to be able to do it. Now, what the levels ought to be is going to be subject to a hot and heavy political debate, obviously. But it is clear that this issue is growing in consequence and importance, and it requires governments all over the world to push towards the next Conference of the Parties that will take place under the UN in order to try to come to an agreement about how we are going to avoid the worst consequences of what has already been put into play.

So President Obama and the United States recognize – at least this Administration recognizes and many senators and congressmen join them – in recognizing a responsibility to try to help deal with this. But there is no yet agreed-upon process by which people will actually implement that, and that is really the fight and struggle over the course of the next Conference of the Parties and the future.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Secretary Kerry and Secretary del Rosario. Ladies and gentlemen, that ends our joint press conference.


PRN: 2013/T20-10

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