FOREIGN Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr., recently met with United States Senators who affirmed the centrality of Philippines-US relations for the stability of the Indo-Pacific region.
Locsin, and Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel 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 where a wide range of issues were discussed.
The US Senators also 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 is in Washington D.C. following his participation at the 76th UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York last week.
Among the topics discussed were the 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 US Senators noted that the Philippines is a key ally of the United States 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 Roa 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.
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.
He also informed them of the formal launch by the Philippine Government and the UN of the UN Joint Program on Human Rights (UNJP), a three-year, USD10 million program aimed at strengthening national institutions and supporting domestic processes to promote and protect human rights through technical cooperation with the UN and other partners.