PUERTO PRINCESA — U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg said “Palawan has a great interest in the maritime security of the Philippines” because of its tourism industry and fishing, and other developing industries.
Goldberg said this Thursday afternoon while on a nearly week-long visit to Puerto Princesa in reply to a question asked by a local member of the press on how important Palawan is in terms of foreign policies involving the West Philippines Sea (WPS).
“Clearly, Palawan has a great interest and has a… because of its tourism industry, and because of fishing, and other ah… for other reasons… an interest in the maritime security of the Philippines.
“The coast guard is here, and the navy so the government here obviously has a great interest, I think, and the governor would agree in making sure that this is a good environment for tourism and for business,” he said following a consultation with businessmen and tourism representatives belonging to the Palawan Chamber of Commerce (PCC) and the Palawan Tourism Council (PTC) at the Governor’s Conference Room.
Goldberg added that as far as the U.S. and the Philippine governments are concerned, both agree that the issues involving the WPS or the South China Sea should be settled in “a way that is peaceful, legal, or diplomatic.”
“The countries involved should resolved these issues with mechanism just like the one being used by the Philippine government, which has taken the matter to a tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” he said.
Goldberg reiterated that the U.S. government opposes any use of coercion and intimidation to resolve disputes involving claimant countries in the WPS.
“That is not the proper way or unilateral actions, as you know… Our position is quite clear, and we will support our allies as we have in the Philippines, that they bring this case before the tribunal,” he stated.
The U.S. government, he furthered, is committed to support its allies like the Philippines as they develop to do maritime security, maritime domain awareness, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief.
“We’ve also signed an enhance defense cooperation agreement (EDCA), which we hope will enhance our ability to do many of the things I just mentioned. So, we’re working very closely and we have a close relationship with the Philippines which is a long-time ally of the United States,” he said.
Ambassador Goldberg also stressed that part of his visit to Palawan as a key province in the Philippines is to re-balance the United States in Asia as the region rises economically.
“We very much see the United States’ prosperity tied to this region as we are in the 21st Century, and our security relationship is important, but people should know also that we’re interested in the joint prosperity of our people to the Filipino people and the people of the United States,” he said.
As Palawan develops economically, the U.S. Ambassador furthered that the U.S. sees the importance of helping the residents of the province through the United States Agency for International Development (USAid)-supported COMPETE program.
“Through the COMPETE programs, we want to help the province unleash some of the potentials here as the governor (Jose Alvarez) and his team, and the private sector work to develop infrastructure, develop airports, roads, electricity – all the things that are needed to help the kind of tourism, other business opportunities that exist here,” he said, inserting that it is really the focus of his visit to Palawan.
The USAID, he averred, has a very strong program in the province and has been present for a long time with concerted efforts on key issues related to development, and with technical assistance provisions.
Goldberg stressed that more than anything, the interest of the U.S. is also to help build strong economies in its allied countries like the Philippines by providing them the parameters they need.
”People should have jobs, should be able to trade more – these are in our interests as well,” said Goldberg.