U.S. senators want updates on De Lima, EJK

Clockwise from top left: Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin, Jr., Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez, Senator Richard Durbin (D – Illinois), and Senator Robert Menendez (D – New Jersey meet virtually to discuss Philippines-U.S. relations

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. held a series of meetings on September 30 with key members of the U.S. Congress who expressed bipartisan support for intensified cooperation between the Philippines and the United States.  

Together with Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez, Locsin met with Senator James Risch (R – Idaho), Representative Steve Chabot (R – Ohio), and Representative Joe Courtney (D – Connecticut) in-person and virtually during his four-day visit in Washington D.C.

All three key members of the U.S. Congress expressed their full support for further strengthening ties between the Philippines and the United States, as the two countries celebrate 75 years of diplomatic relations and 70 years since the signing of the Mutual Defense Treaty this year. 

During his meetings, Locsin also expressed the Philippine Government’s gratitude to the U.S. for its donations of vaccines now totaling over nine million through the COVAX facility. The American lawmakers, for their part, thanked the Philippine Government for getting the Visiting Forces Agreement back on track, underscoring the critical role the Philippines-U.S. alliance continues to play for the security and stability of the Indo-Pacific region.

Two days earlier,Locsin met with senators who affirmed the centrality of Philippines-U.S. relations for the stability of the Indo-Pacific region, thanked the Philippine Government for bringing the Visiting Forces Agreement back on track, and recognized the key role of the Filipino diaspora in the U.S.

Locsin and Romualdez met virtually with Richard Durbin (D – Illinois), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee; and Senator Robert Menendez (D – New Jersey), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Locsin was in Washington D.C. following his participation at the 76th UN General Assembly in New York the previous week.

The meeting covered a range of issues on Philippines-U.S. relations, including the implementation of the VFA, regional security developments, the significant contributions of the Filipino communities in the United States, and the human rights situation in the Philippines. 

The senators noted that the Philippines is a key ally of the U.S. in the Indo-Pacific region, and they expressed appreciation for the Philippine government’s decision to recall the abrogation of the VFA.

On the human rights situation in the Philippines, Locsin highlighted that the Philippines remains a vibrant democracy and echoed President Rodrigo Duterte’s speech at the 76th UNGA on ensuring that those who are found to have acted beyond bounds with respect to the government’s campaign against illegal drugs are made accountable before the law. 

Senator Durbin inquired about the case of Senator Leila de Lima, as well as on allegations of extrajudicial drug-related killings, freedom of the press, among other issues. Locsin assured the U.S. senators that the Philippine Government will provide updates as regards progress on these issues.

(C) The FilAm 2021

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