UNITED States Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim has ended his three-year tour of duty in the Philippines. It has not been an easy tour for the ambassador for it began at the same time as the start of President Duterte’s administration in 2016. But it has ended on a very positive note. Despite the many times when relations appeared set to break down, the Philippines and the US have remained the closest of friends and allies.
We may remember how the new Philippine president lashed out at then US President Barack Obama in 2016, using his favorite expletive, for Obama’s critical comments on the just-beginning Philippine war on drugs. But then the new president had used the same expletive against Pope Francis for his visit which had caused traffic jams in Manila.
President Duterte subsequently declared his readiness to join with Russia and China against the world. He has since developed very close economic relations with China but Russia is as remote as ever. In the Philippines’ continuing search for ships, planes, arms, and other defense materials, it has turned on various countries like South Korea and Japan. But it has also turned to the US, its traditional source of arms. Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr. met with US Assistant Secretary for East Asia and Pacific Affairs David Stilwell last week to relay the Philippine desire to purchase 74,000 M-16 rifles for its armed forces.
President Duterte appears to have gotten along well with President Donald Trump. The annual US-Philippines military exercises have never been suspended. The US remains one of our closest trading partners along with China and Japan. Philippine exports to the US reached $1.09 billion as of May, up by 9.98 percent from last year.
And the greatest ambition of many Filipinos is still to go to the US, live and work there to join the 4 million who now make up the fourth biggest immigrant group in that country, after Mexicans, Chinese, and Indians. More than any one country, it is still the US that Filipinos look to for help and support, the result of 50 years of a relationship that gave us our system of democratic government, our public school system, and our openness to other cultures and other faiths, such that Filipinos today can fit into any culture in the world.
Ambassador Kim, himself an American with roots in Asia, has done very well in the three years he spent in the Philippines. He has represented his country well and he has related to this country and its people well. We wish him the best as he moves on to his new assignment in Indonesia, our close neighbor and Asian ally to the south.