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17/01/2012: Secretary Del Rosario Meets with US Senator John Mccain and Delegation to Discuss Future of Phl-US Relations

17 January 2012-Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario met this afternoon with a United States congressional delegation led by U.S. Senate Armed Forces Committee Ranking Member Senator John McCain and exchanged views on the future of Philippines-US relations.

The other members of Senator McCain's delegation are Senators Joseph Lieberman, Sheldon Whitehouse and Kelly Ayotte.

U.S. Ambassador Harry K. Thomas, Jr. accompanied the member delegation to the meeting.

The issues discussed included U.S. defense and development assistance to the Philippines, West Philippine Sea (WPS) and China, updates on the Mindanao Peace Process, ASEAN, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), Myanmar, climate change and the renewed engagement of the U.S. in the Asia Pacific.

The Secretary expressed appreciation for U.S. Senate Resolution 217, which was passed on 27 June 2011, which called for a peaceful and multilateral resolution to maritime territorial disputes in the WPS.

He also thanked the Senator for his position about the need to maintain freedom of navigation in the WPS and for stressing the need for U.S. support in defense of the Philippines as America's treaty ally.

Senator McCain, who expressed "strong affinity" for the Philippines and noted the "long and friendly personal relationship" between the two countries, conveyed that the best way to avoid confrontation with China is to maintain freedom of navigation.

Secretary del Rosario also requested the U.S.' assistance on the Philippine Government's request for a third Weather High Endurance Cutter (WHEC), which would enable the Philippines to attain minimum credible defense posture and to enhance maritime domain awareness.

In response, Senator McCain committed that they "will try to get a waiver on the cutter" as he sees that it would be "unreasonable not to give it" to the Philippines. He also said that they would do whatever they could to help the Philippines improve its maritime security.

As chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security, Senator Lieberman conveyed his gratitude for the Philippines' cooperation in counterterrorism and requested updates on the Mindanao Peace Process.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis provided updates on the Government of the Philippines-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (GRP-MILF) Peace Process, and expressed optimism that a peace agreement will be signed between the two panels before the end of the Aquino administration.

The visit of Senator McCain and his delegation to the Philippines is part of their trip to Southeast Asia which includes Vietnam and Myanmar. The visit's purpose is to broaden and deepen the existing defense and security relations between the two countries.

The delegation is also scheduled to meet with President Benigno S. Aquino this evening. (photo by Benjamin Remo, DFA-PISU) END

Press release from the Department of Foreign Affairs