June 25, 2024

The Insider News

Direct from the source

Speaker Romualdez’s lobbying pays off: $8.1-B aid package OK’d for US Indo-Pacific allies, PH among beneficiaries

THE extensive lobbying efforts of the Philippine delegation, led by Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez, paid off as the United States House of Representatives approved an USD8.1 billion emergency aid package for key allies in the Indo-Pacific, including the Philippines.

Romualdez conveyed his appreciation to the U.S. House for the bipartisan support of the groundbreaking measure, crucially beneficial for Filipinos amid escalating tensions in the West Philippine Sea.

“This is a momentous occasion that underscores the enduring partnership between our nations and the unwavering commitment of the U.S. to fostering stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific,” Speaker Romualdez declared.

“We are deeply grateful for the bipartisan effort that has led to the approval of this crucial assistance, which will undoubtedly strengthen the security and resilience of our region,” he added.

Voting 385-34, the U.S. House passed the USD8.1-billion bill, allocating nearly USD4 billion in security assistance to Taiwan, the Philippines, and other Indo-Pacific allies, alongside USD1.9 billion to replenish U.S. stocks that have been depleted to aid Asian allies, and USD3.3 billion for submarine infrastructure and additional provisions.

During the debate, one amendment was adopted to express support for ensuring that security assistance in the bill reaches the Philippines.

The Speaker expressed his gratitude to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) who introduced the amendment to the bill, encouraging the U.S. State Department to allocate USD500 million in Foreign Military Financing to the Philippines.

“The passage of this amendment underscores the deepening partnership between our nations and highlights the United States’ commitment to enhancing the defense capabilities of the Philippines,” remarked Romualdez, leader of the 300-plus strong House of Representatives on Issa’s help whom he met during his visit.

“I extend my heartfelt gratitude to Rep. Darrell Issa for his steadfast dedication to advancing our shared interests and for his pivotal role in advocating for this significant allocation of military aid to the Philippines,” he added.

The approval of this bipartisan measure comes on the heels of extensive deliberations between the Philippine House delegation, led by Romualdez, and a number of American legislators at Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. 

These deliberations coincided with the momentous trilateral summit among U.S. President Joe Biden, Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr.

“The constructive dialogue and shared vision exhibited during our meetings exemplify the enduring partnership between our nations,” Romualdez said.

He continued, “This aid package symbolizes our collective resolve to fortify the bonds of friendship and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.”

The USD8.1-billion assistance to the Indo-Pacific is integral to the USD95.3-billion emergency aid package, which includes vital support for key U.S. allies like Ukraine and Israel. This comprehensive measure will now proceed to the Senate for a final vote.

Romualdez commended the U.S. House for its “steadfast commitment to advancing global stability and security.”

“The bipartisan consensus underscores the paramount importance of standing united in addressing shared challenges and advancing common objectives,” he stressed.

The Philippine delegation’s engagement with American legislators was marked by camaraderie and cultural exchange, exemplified by the “balut diplomacy” with California 6th District Rep. Ami Bera. 

Romualdez expressed his appreciation for the warm hospitality extended during these interactions, emphasizing the significance of personal connections in fostering enduring partnerships.

He also said that the aid package, encompassing provisions for key U.S. allies across diverse regions, reflects a comprehensive approach to addressing evolving geopolitical dynamics. 

“This multifaceted assistance package reaffirms America’s steadfast commitment to promoting peace, prosperity, and security in the Indo-Pacific and beyond,” the Philippine House chief said.

Romualdez expressed confidence that the U.S. House’s decisive action would set the stage for further collaboration and partnership between the U.S. and its allies in the Indo-Pacific region, particularly the Philippines.

“As we navigate complex global challenges, the bonds forged through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation will serve as the cornerstone of our shared aspirations for a brighter future,” the Speaker said.

During the dialogue with American lawmakers, Romualdez called for a substantial increase in U.S. security assistance to the Philippines amid persistent threats to sovereignty and regional stability in the West Philippine Sea.

He said it was critical that the U.S. augment its Foreign Military Financing for the Philippines, in response to escalating regional challenges. 

The proposed enhancement, he said, would expedite the country’s military modernization and bolster law enforcement capabilities, which are crucial steps for maintaining sovereignty and regional peace. 

During the his visit, Romualdez sought the expansion of joint military exercises in the Philippines, appealed for an increased United States 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. Bill Hagerty of Tennessee.

He also expressed his “deep gratitude” to Hagerty, a Republican, and Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, a Democrat, for introducing in the U.S. Senate the PERA of 2024, a bill that seeks USD500 million a year in FMF for the Philippines for 2025 through 2029, or a total of USD2.5 billion for five years.

The bipartisan measure was introduced last Tuesday, April 10, a day before the trilateral summit in Washington, D.C. 

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 U.S. FMF program provides grants for acquiring U.S. defense equipment, services, and training. It aims to promote America’s 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.