Arroyo calls for closer ties with U.S., Japan


MANILA, AFP

The Philippines should improve its ties with the United States and Japan while helping to ensure that relations between Japan and mainland China run smoothly, President Gloria Arroyo said Wednesday.

Speaking at a Department of Foreign Affairs anniversary celebration, Arroyo said: “I would like to see the blossoming of Philippine-U.S. relations that is responsive with new realities … and the conjunction of diplomacy and the market.”

She cited joint commitments of the two countries to cooperate in areas such as electronic commerce and environmental protection and fighting global terrorism and transnational crime.

She also said that “despite the problems it sometimes causes, the military alliance with the US is a strategic asset to the Philppines.”

Arroyo was referring to defense agreements which allow joint U.S.-Philippine war games to be held here despite vehement objections of nationalist groups and occasional mishaps involving U.S. servicemen.

Regarding Japan, the country’s second largest trading partner and main source of official assistance, Arroyo said the Philippines “should move to strengthen bilateral, economic and political relations.”

She also stressed that with mainland China, the Philippines had a “long-term relationship that transcends the specific matters and issues.”

Arroyo was apparently referring to overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea by the two countries.

Arroyo said it was in the interest of the Philippines and Asia to ensure that relations between Japan and mainland China “exert a beneficial influence on the regional’s economic, social and political stability.”

The president also reiterated the Philippines’ commitment to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its associated institutions such as the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).

She called for better relations with Islamic countries, saying this could help solve a Muslim separatist campaign in the south of this largely-Roman Catholic nation.

Arroyo stressed that relations with such countries, particularly those in the Middle East, “must be broadened beyond overseas workers” referring to the thousands of Filipinos who work as laborers in the Middle East.