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30 April 2016

WASHINGTON, DC — “Through all the shifts of policy and politics over the years, both in our country and in the Philippines, one thing has provided a lasting foundation for US-Philippine relations. That is the strong bonds between our two peoples.”

The Honorable Richard Lugar, former Chairman of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, ended his Keynote Address with that personal testimony to the strength of modern Philippines-US relations. He was speaking at the symposium entitled “Philippines 2016: Governance, Growth, Development and Security,” which was held in Washington, D.C. on 28 April 2016 to reflect on the accomplishments of the Aquino Administration, as well as the opportunities and challenges for the Philippines, as the country prepares to elect a new President on 09 May.

Senator Lugar’s speech provided a personal perspective on the Philippines, including its 30-year transition since the EDSA Revolution of 1986, recent progress under the Aquino Administration, along with what he perceives to lie ahead for the bilateral relationship between the Philippines and the United States.

He spoke of his role in leading the US election observer delegation to Manila in 1986, and the challenging process of re-framing American policy towards former President Marcos and the Philippines in the lead up to the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution. He described as “far too simplistic” the idea at that time within the US government that Philippine policy was only a choice between Marcos and the Communists who might take over.

“One of its many flaws was that it ignored the fundamental attachment of the Filipino people to democratic values.  We had seen that in the 1984 national assembly elections. I saw that as I toured the country on Election Day in 1986. I met many courageous people who had risked threats of violence and intimidation to come to the polls. And certainly the world saw it when TV cameras broadcast around the world the huge crowds, up to a million people, that attended Cory Aquino’s rallies after the balloting,” Senator Lugar explained.

The 1986 EDSA Revolution restored democracy. And Senator Lugar emphasized the importance of what happened in the next thirty years. “Democracy prevailed over time. So the Filipino people should be proud that they have kept their democracy, even as they have worked to correct what they would agree are its many flaws,” he noted.

If his mother was the symbol of the Filipinos’ political empowerment, Senator Lugar lauded President Benigno Aquino III as the symbol of economic empowerment.

“He leaves with some of the highest approval ratings for a departing president, and a solid record of robust economic growth under his watch. The American business community in the Philippines has given his administration high marks for the economic reforms that have been passed by the Congress during his term, and the international rating agencies have steadily upgraded the country’s credit scores. This growing international confidence bodes well for future foreign investment and more jobs,” Senator Lugar said.

He expressed optimism that the Philippines and the United States will remain strong allies and partners even after Presidents Aquino and Barack Obama leave office. “While personalities are important, countries’ relationships with one another are also shaped by their interests, and those won’t change just because of the elections.  I am hopeful that whoever the new American president is, he or she will appoint experienced foreign policy advisers who will evaluate US-Philippine relations on the basis of our shared interests, and not through an ideological lens,” he said.

Senator Lugar also drew attention to the 400,000 Filipinos who served with the American military in World War II, and the more than 3.5 million Filipino-Americans who today call the United States their home. He noted that more Americans are beginning to retire in the Philippines.

“Simply put, Filipinos and Americans like each other. That’s why I am confident that whatever happens in the Philippines’ elections and in ours, the mutual affection between our citizens will continue to be a source of strength,” he confidently told the audience.

Ambassador (Ret.) John F. Maisto, President of the US-Philippines Society, remarked, "Drawing on his deep well of experience in politics, international affairs, and in-depth knowledge of US- Philippine relations, Senator Lugar provided us with insight into challenges facing both countries in this election year. While acknowledging some bumps in the road ahead, he delivered a fundamentally optimistic message that shared values will continue to underpin strong bilateral cooperation based on democracy, open trading systems, and a commitment to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region."

“Senator Lugar is a genuine friend of the Philippines who has done so much for our democracy and development. We thank him for his insightful and very personal Keynote Address,” said Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr.

The Philippines 2016 Symposium was co-sponsored by the Philippine Embassy and the US-Philippines Society, together with the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies. ###

30 April 2016

The Honorable Richard Lugar, former Chairman of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, delivers his keynote remarks at the symposium entitled “Philippines 2016: Governance, Growth, Development and Security,” held at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) on 28 April 2016.