CHICAGO (FAXX/jGLi) – The one-day official visit of Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. Del Rosario in Washington, D.C. is paying off some dividends as it is now slowly but surely putting the bloody violence in Sabah (North Borneo) in the United States official map.
In a readout of U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter’s meeting with Philippines Secretary Del Rosario posted on the Pentagon (U.S. Department of Defense) website last Tuesday, April 2, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said, “The deputy secretary (Carter) expressed gratitude for Del Rosario’s hospitality during his recent visit to Manila. They discussed U.S. capacity building to support the armed forces of the Philippines modernization plans and regional security issues including the South China Sea, recent violence in Sabah, and North Korea.
“The two sides noted progress in the investigation of the U.S.S. Guardian incident, including the involvement of investigators from the Philippines and the work starting now on an environmental impact assessment of the incident.”
In his brief welcome remarks on Tuesday morning, when Del Rosario met with U.S. State Department Secretary John F. Kerry , Kerry only mentioned the Philippine Western Sea (or South China Sea) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the TPP.
Secretary Del Rosario later mentioned the apology of Secretary Kerry on the grounding of U.S.S. Guardian after their closed-door meeting, apparently leaving out the Sabah issue.
The U.S. government must be taking a cue from U.S. mainstream media, which have yet to carry a line about the Sabah violence that has claimed the lives of more than 60 people, mostly heirs and followers of the Royal Army of the Sultan of Sulu.
According to the readout, “Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter met with Albert Del Rosario, Philippines Secretary of Foreign Affairs on April 2 at the Pentagon. Secretary Hagel welcomed Secretary Del Rosario to Washington and emphasized his commitment to the U.S.-Philippine alliance. The secretary said he was pleased with the progress being made toward an increased rotational presence for the U.S. military in the Philippines.”
“Deputy Secretary Carter thanked Secretary Del Rosario for his friendship and his continued commitment to the U.S.-Philippine alliance.”
STRATEGIC ALLIANCE, CRUCIAL, RELEVANT
A news item attributed to American Forces Press Service and posted on the Pentagon website dated April 3, repeated Little’s readout, which included “discussion of U.S. capacity building to support the Philippine armed forces’ modernization plans as well as regional security issues including the South China Sea, recent violence in Sabah, and North Korea, and progress in the investigation of a Jan. 17 incident in which the USS Guardian ran aground in the Tubbataha Reef and the work starting now on an environmental impact assessment of the incident.”
Meanwhile, a press release posted on the website of the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. said, “We also both agreed that our strategic alliance is crucial and relevant amidst the uncertainty and the security challenges in the region,” said Secretary Del Rosario, adding that the top American defense official has expressed satisfaction with the progress being made towards an increased US rotational presence in the Philippines.
The meeting with Secretary Del Rosario was Secretary Hagel’s first with a senior Philippine official since taking over the Pentagon in February. It followed the meeting also on Tuesday between Secretary Del Rosario and Secretary of State John F. Kerry—the former Massachusetts senator’s first face-to-face encounter with a senior Filipino official since he succeeded Secretary Hillary R. Clinton at the Department of State early this year.
Also present in the Pentagon meeting were Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia Jr.; Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for American Affairs Carlos D. Sorreta; Deputy Chief of Mission Maria Andrelita S. Austria; Defense Attache Brig. Gen. Cesar B. Yano; and Executive Director Rosalita S. Prospero of the Office of American Affairs of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
During the meeting, Secretary Del Rosario provided Pentagon officials, who included Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Peter Lavoy, an update on Manila’s efforts to peacefully resolve the disputes in the West Philippine Sea, particularly its decision to seek arbitration.
“The Pentagon was supportive of our arbitration initiative, especially because it is consistent with efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the dispute without resorting to coercion,” the Secretary said.
“I articulated that the Philippine Government is committed to see through the arbitration proceedings to its conclusion. We will not slow down on this effort,” Secretary Del Rosario stressed.