Martin4 Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez, on Tuesday afternoon (United States time), engages Sen. William Francis Hagerty of Tennessee in a dialogue for the expansion of joint military exercises in the Philippines, increasing the United States’ (US) foreign military financing (FMF), and welcoming the Philippines Enhanced Resilience Act of 2024 (PERA Act) following his series of meetings with United States lawmakers.

Speaker Romualdez seeks expanded multilateral joint military exercises

April 17, 2024 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 91 views

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WASHINGTON D.C. — SPEAKER Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez on Tuesday afternoon (United States time) sought the expansion of joint military exercises in the Philippines, appealed for an increased United States (US) foreign military financing (FMF), and 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.

Speaker 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,” Speaker 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.

Speaker Romualdez has proposed increasing United States foreign military financing (FMF) to the Philippines from $40 million.

“Given the strength of our alliance, the complexity of our evolving challenges, and our expanding engagements, I hope you will agree that the FMF also needs an increase,” Speaker Romualdez said.

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.

Also among the topics discussed by Speaker Romualdez was the status of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States, including the announcement of President Marcos of four additional EDCA Agreed Locations, which brought the total to nine all in all.

These are identified portions of the facilities and areas within Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija; Basa Air Base, Pampanga; Antonio Bautista Air Base, Palawan; Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base, Cebu; Lumbia Airfield, Cagayan De Oro; Naval Base Camilo Osias (NBCO), Santa Ana, Cagayan; Camp Melchor Dela Cruz (CMDC), Gamu, Isabela; Cagayan North International Airport (CNIA), Lal-lo, Cagayan; and Balabac Island, Palawan.

Speaker 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.

Speaker Romualdez also discussed the recent launching of the Luzon Economic Corridor by Presidents Biden and Marcos and Prime Minister Kishida.

“The Luzon Corridor is a demonstration of our enhanced economic cooperation,” the three leaders said after their trilateral summit.

The project will connect Subic Bay, Clark, Manila, and Batangas through modernized ports, railways, clean power projects, and supply chain improvements to advance semiconductors and other industries.

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