PH urges Filipinos in the US to exercise ‘utmost caution’ amid rise in anti-Asian attacks

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 26, 2021   •   554

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Embassy in Washington has cautioned Filipinos in the United States (US) to stay safe and vigilant amid rising incidents of anti-Asian attacks in various parts of the US. 

The Embassy and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) also called on the local authorities in the US to further ensure the protection of Asian Americans, including Filipinos.

“The Philippine Embassy and Consulates General in the United States appreciate the swift action taken by a number of local authorities to apprehend perpetrators of these attacks. However, we call on federal, state, and local authorities to further ensure the protection of persons of Asian descent, including Filipinos,” the DFA said.

Among the reports concerning violence against those of Asian descent include the case of Filipino-American Noel Quintana who was slashed in the face by a fellow subway passenger early February this year.

Filipinos in the US have been advised to immediately call 911 if they experience an attack. AAC

US gives P170M support for Philippines’ COVID-19 vaccine deployment

Robie de Guzman   •   April 15, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The United States (US) government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has provided P170 million or $3.5 million funds to support the Philippines in its COVID-19 vaccination rollout, the US Embassy in Manila said Thursday.

U.S. Embassy Chargé d’Affaires John Law announced this during a visit to a vaccination site in Caloocan City with Philippine Secretary of Health Francisco Duque III, Caloocan City Mayor Oscar Malapitan, USAID Philippines Mission Director Lawrence Hardy II, and other U.S. and Philippine officials.

The embassy said the new assistance will support the Philippines in strengthening the vaccine supply chain, monitoring vaccine safety, and delivering effective communication campaigns to address vaccine hesitancy.

It will also support local government units as they plan for, track, and administer vaccines, it added.

“While the pandemic has tested our peoples and our economies, the strong bonds between Americans and Filipinos will help us rise above this challenge,” Law said.

“We will continue to fight this unprecedented global health crisis together,” he added.

The latest assistance fund brings the total U.S. government support for the Philippines’ COVID-19 response to nearly P1.3 billion ($27 million), the embassy said.

Meanwhile, the embassy further reported that the White House recently announced a P194 billion ($4 billion) commitment to support the COVAX facility.

COVAX Facility is a global initiative to support early vaccine access for 92 countries, including the Philippines.

An initial P97.2-billion ($2 billion) contribution, provided through USAID, is supporting the purchase and delivery of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines, the embassy said.

The Philippines has so far administered over 1.2 million vaccine doses out of the more than 3 million doses that were delivered in the country.

Government data showed that 1,093,651 people received their first shot while 162,065 individuals already got two doses since the vaccination program started on March 1.

 

PH, US military forces open Balikatan Exercise

Robie de Guzman   •   April 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the United States (US) military on Monday opened the 36th Balikatan Exercise with a ceremony held at the Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

AFP chief of staff General Cirilito Sobejana declared the opening of the exercise, which is an annual activity for Philippine and US troops.

“The Balikatan Exercise, since its launching in 1991, has been a treasure trove of learning opportunities for both Filipino and American soldiers and in recent years would also include our other allies here in the Indo-Pacific region,” Sobejana said.

U.S. Embassy in the Philippines Chargé d’Affaires John Law was also present during the ceremony along with other AFP and US military officials.

“Joint exercises like Balikatan demonstrate our shared commitment to peace and stability and the adaptability of U.S. and Philippine forces. The United States will continue to seek ways, even during the pandemic, to strengthen our security cooperation,” Law said.

Department of National Defense Undersecretary Cesar Yano presided over the opening ceremony of the exercise, which he said will “reinvigorate the friendship, partnership, and alliance between the Philippines and the United States.”

This year’s Balikatan will include a bilateral staff exercise, close air support training, subject matter exchanges, maritime security training, and humanitarian and civic assistance activities.

These events will be conducted in areas within the Northern Luzon Command and Southern Luzon Command, the AFP said.

As part of the humanitarian and civic assistance activities, Filipino and American service members are building two classrooms and a daycare center in Plaridel, Bulacan Province, as well as a classroom in Atimonan and a health center in Mauban, both in Quezon Province.

The projects began on March 26 and are set to be completed by April 23, coinciding with the exercise’s conclusion.

The AFP assured that activities relating to the Balikatan exercise will be conducted with “utmost consideration and compliance” to guidelines set by the government’s inter-agency task force against COVID-19 to “ensure the safety of both participants and the community.”

Adjustments were also implemented, including the decrease of participants from both militaries. The AFP will have 736 personnel participate while the U.S. Armed Forces will have approximately 225 participants.

“Though this year’s exercises are toned down because of the prevailing health crisis, which has affected not only the Philippines, but similarly the entire world – these circumstances will, however, not diminish nor hamper the real intent of the Balikatan Exercises – that is to foster a stronger and more robust military relationship, and interoperability between our two Armed Forces,” Sobejana said.

“Against this backdrop and these challenges notwithstanding, the decrease is only in terms of number and never in the participating nations’ passion and desire to meet the steep objectives set forth in every exercise,” said Major General Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson and also Balikatan exercise director.

Arevalo’s U.S. counterpart, Colonel  Aaron Brunk reiterated the importance of the bilateral exercise.

“I am greatly honored to be here today and to stand shoulder to shoulder with our Philippine allies and friends. By training together, our militaries build upon each other and strengthen each other,” Brunk said.

Balikatan is a Tagalog phrase for “shoulder-to-shoulder,” which characterizes the spirit of the exercise and represents the partnership between the U.S. and the Philippines, the AFP said.

Last year’s Balikatan exercise was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

PH, US defense chiefs tackle West Philippine Sea situation, regional security issues

Robie de Guzman   •   April 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III on Sunday (April 11) discussed the situation in the West Philippine Sea and some measures to deepen the defense cooperation of two countries amid recent tensions in the contested waters.

In a statement, the Department of National Defense (DND) said the defense chiefs of the two nations held a telephone conference to talk about the situation in the West Philippine Sea and recent developments in regional security.

DND Spokesperson Arsenio Andolong earlier said that the Philippines is “keeping all options open” but said they are closely coordinating with the United States government on the matter.

Andolong also said that both parties are “committed to undertake their obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty so that neither stands alone in these issues involving the two states’ inherent right of self-defense, individually and collectively.”

The United States and the Philippines signed the mutual defense treaty in 1951.

In a separate statement, Austin said he spoke with his counterpart to reaffirm their commitment to the alliance between the US and the Philippines.

“I had a productive call with SND @del_lorenzana to discuss challenges in the South China Sea and the need for unity in ensuring security and stability in the region. #FreeandopenIndoPacific,” he said.

The DND said both defense chiefs “are looking forward to the conduct of Exercise Balikatan, which was canceled last year.”

Austin also reiterated the importance of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two nations and “hopes that it would be continued.”

“Secretary Lorenzana committed to discuss the matter with the President as the final approval lies with him,” the DND said.

Also during the phone conversation, Lorenzana sought Austin’s assistance to speed up the delivery of Moderna-developed COVID-19 vaccine doses that were procured by the Philippine government.

“To which, Secretary Austin replied that he would look into the issue and bring it to the attention of the office concerned,” the DND said.

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