NEW YORK – In a continuing effort to build strong friendships and raise awareness among U.S. officials of issues affecting U.S.-Philippines relations, Consul General Mario De Leon, Jr. and Consul Felipe Carino, called on Representative Frank Pallone (NJ-D) in Long Branch, New Jersey on April 7. They were accompanied by Filipino community leaders JT Mallonga, National Chair, National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA); Emerito Salud, Esq., member Board of Governors, NaFFAA; Gilda Sapaden of Hanover,New Jersey; Roberto Ticzon of East Hanover, New Jersey; and Councilor Nick Joanow of Bloomfield, New Jersey.
According to a Philippine Consulate statement, community representatives usually accompany Consul General De Leon during such calls not only to lend support but to also raise local issues of importance to them, particularly for those living in the same district of the official they are meeting with.
In meeting with Congressman Pallone, the statement said that De Leon informed the New Jersey Democrat that Filipinos and Filipino Americans in the U.S. are now the second largest Asian American population in the U.S., next to China. In the 6th District in New Jersey which Rep. Pallone represents, there are about 7,160 Filipino Americans based on the latest U.S. Census.
Consul General de Leon conveyed the status of two issues to the attention of Pallone; namely, House Resolution (HR). No. 535, which seeks to recognize Philippine veterans with the Congressional Gold Medal Award, and the ongoing arbitration case in the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) between China and the Philippines concerning the West Philippine Sea.
Consul General De Leon thanked the congressman for his co-sponsorship of House Resolution (HR) No. 535, which is awaiting action in the U.S. Congress. He said the award is important to Filipino veterans and their family members who remain hopeful that the US will finally recognize the contribution and sacrifice of Filipino veterans who served in World War II. Representatives Juan Vargas and Mike Thompson, both Democrats from California, filed the bill in January this year.
The Congressional Gold Medal is an honor previously given to other minority groups. Pallone reiterated his support for Filipino veterans and HR 535.
With regard to the arbitration case, the consul general brought up U.S. Senate’s resolution affirming the “freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and the integrity of the PHL-US Mutual Defense Treaty.”
The statement said De Leon underscored the Philippines adherence to the rule of law, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. He invited Congressman Pallone to join the Philippines-U.S. Friendship Caucus. In response, the congressman expressed his willingness to be a member.
A decision on the merits and jurisdiction of the court is expected to be issued by ITLOS between January to April 2016, according to the Philippine Consulate. The congressman noted the ongoing development and promised to look into this matter closely, the statement said.