Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez

Romualdez seeks expanded war exercises, more US military aid

April 17, 2024 Jester P. Manalastas 108 views

SPEAKER Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez has sought the expansion of joint military exercises in the Philippines and appealed for an increased United States (US) foreign military financing (FMF).

Likewise, he welcomed the Philippines Enhanced Resilience Act of 2024 (PERA Act) following his series of meetings with US lawmakers, including Sen. William Francis Hagerty of Tennessee.

He made the proposals during his engagements with US lawmakers, including Hagerty, Sen. Christopher Van Hollen of Maryland, Rep. Gary Palmer of Alabama, and other US officials from April 16, 17, and 18 to promote national defense and regional security cooperation.

Romualdez underscored the importance of expanded multilateral joint military exercises in the Philippines not only to improve its defense strategies but also to foster stronger ties with other allies, ensuring peace and stability in the region.

He cited the effectiveness of the Balikatan exercises with the US and related activities with other regional allies.

“These exercises have shown their significant importance in boosting our tactical and operational prowess. With this program, we can improve stability, security, and peace in the Asia-Pacific region and better safeguard our nation,” Romualdez said.

Aside from the Speaker, the Philippine delegation included Senior Deputy Speaker Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales Jr., Deputy Speaker David “Jay-jay” Suarez, Majority Leader Manuel Jose “Mannix” M. Dalipe, Agusan del Norte Rep. Jose “Joboy” Aquino ll, House Secretary General Reginald “Reggie” Velasco, Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez, Ambassador to Japan Mylene Garcia-Albano, and House Deputy Secretary Generals Jennifer “Jef” Baquiran and Sofonias “Ponyong” Gabonada Jr., and other House officials and Philippine embassy officers.

The House leader has proposed increasing United States foreign military financing (FMF) to the Philippines from $40 million.

He also expressed his “deep gratitude” to Hagerty, a Republican, and Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, a Democrat, for introducing in the US Senate the PERA of 2024, a bill that seeks $500 million a year in FMF for the Philippines for 2025 through 2029, or a total of $2.5 billion for five years.

The bipartisan measure was introduced last Tuesday, April 10, a day before the trilateral summit in Washington D.C. of US President Joe Biden, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr.

In filing the proposed law, Hagerty said the United States and the Philippines should deepen further cooperation and raise the decades-long alliance to even greater heights.

For his part, Kaine said it is essential that the people of the Philippines have the resources and support they need in the face of ongoing challenges in the West Philippine Sea.

The US FMF program provides grants for acquiring US defense equipment, services, and training. It aims to promote US national security interests by contributing to regional and global stability, strengthening military support for democratically-elected governments, and containing transnational threats, including terrorism and trafficking in narcotics, weapons, and persons.

Romualdez apprised the US lawmakers on the state of work of all the infrastructure projects in the EDCA sites, including the initial 21 projects in the five original sites and the additional 63 infrastructure projects agreed to by both parties during the meeting of the Mutual Defense Board and Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB) in September 2023.

Speaker Romualdez also discussed reauthorizing the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program with US lawmakers.

He said the GSP “will enable us to significantly support two-way trade, as we have in prior years.”

Before the program lapsed, he said the Philippines exported more than $2 billion worth of products tax-free to the US annually through GSP.

He said the tax-free exportation system created jobs and investments in the Philippines.

Speaker Romualdez added that with the program’s resumption, US buyers of Philippine products would benefit from low prices, easing inflation.

Bilateral cooperation in other areas, including clean energy and infrastructure, was also discussed in Speaker Romualdez’s meetings with US lawmakers.

The House leader said “creative sectoral arrangements” are needed to leverage Philippine resources and US technologies in the electric vehicle industry and the broader transition to clean energy, including nuclear power.

“I hope with your support we can make more progress in this area of our cooperation,” he said.

He noted that US congressional delegations that visited the Philippines last year and earlier this year expressed strong interest in advancing cooperation on critical minerals.

“We would very much welcome your advice and guidance on addressing congressional concerns on this issue,” he said.

The meetings were part of the Speaker’s official visit to the US.