WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Philippines marked the 116thanniversary of the proclamation of its independence in Washington, D.C. by paying tribute to the United States and the American people for extending a helping hand in the immediate aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.
“Typhoon Haiyan took many lives and left a trail of incomprehensible destruction, but it did not defeat the Filipino spirit. Very much like our courageous ancestors who made great sacrifice to witness that day in 1898 when the Philippine flag was raised, our people have begun the difficult task of recovery and rehabilitation,” Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. said in his Independence Daymessage at the Kennedy Center.
“As our government and people buckle down to this task, we are uplifted by the support and generosity of our friends: from the US government, which has committed more than US$ 86 million for Haiyan related efforts, to US businesses and NGOs, who have pledged approximately $60 million,” he said.
“We are particularly touched by the many American men, women and even children, as well as our kababayans in the US, who have reached out to us to donate their resources, time and energies,” Ambassador Cuisia added.
Two people who donated their resources and energy towards recovery in typhoon-affected areas were honored that evening – the armless pilot Jessica Cox and performer Allan Pineda Lindo, more popularly known as apl.de.ap of the Black Eyed Peas.
The Embassy of the Philippines presented Cox with a plaque of achievement for her excellence as a motivational speaker and advocate for the disabled. Cox’s family is from Guiuan where Typhoon Haiyan first made landfall. She has partnered with Handicap International to provide support for those who were disabled as a result of Typhoon Haiyan.
Apl.de.ap received a plaque for his achievements and valuable service to the Philippines and the United States, and for making significant contributions in building the image of Filipinos and the Philippines in the US. Apl.de.ap has done philanthropic work in the Eastern Visayas after Typhoon Haiyan and is set to conduct a music and arts camp for children affected by the typhoon in the near future.
Among the dignitaries who attended were US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel R. Russel , Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott, Co-Chair of the US-Philippines Friendship Caucus at the House of Representatives; and Ambassador John Negroponte, Co-Chairman of the US-Philippine Society. Also present were members of the diplomatic corps, US officials, businessmen, and the Filipino Community.
In his remarks, Ambassador Cuisia also cited President Obama’s visit to the Philippines in April, which, he said, further manifested the strength of the Philippine-US alliance.
“We are heartened by President Obama’s support for the Philippines’ decision to seek arbitration to address maritime claims in the South China Sea, recognizing our contribution to strengthening international law and peaceful avenues for the settlement of disputes,” Ambassador Cuisia said. “We will always remember President Obama’s reiteration of the US’ ironclad commitment and his statement that “allies never stand alone.”
He said another milestone of President Obama’s visit is the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and economic deliverables that will promote trade and investment. “We are optimistic that the visit of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker to Manila last week opened doors for more business exchanges,” he added.
For his part, Assistant Secretary of State Russel said the relaxed atmosphere and the rapport between Presidents Aquino and Obama underlined the long-standing friendship and alliance between the US and the Philippines.
“We have a close relationship, based on democratic values, shared prosperity, mutual interests, intertwined history, and close people-to-people ties,” he said as he cited the more than 3.5 million Filipino-Americans in the US and the more than 200,000 Americans living in the Philippines.
“With the Defense Cooperation Agreement we just agreed to, our commitment to regional security and stability is now even stronger. And this agreement will improve our ability to work together to deliver humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” Assistant Secretary Russell said.
“As the recovery from Typhoon Yolanda continues, America stands with the Philippines. Tonight’s concert will support recovery efforts. We admire the strength and resilience of Filipino people, especially in the affected areas. We know your nation will bounce back from this tragedy stronger,” he added.
In his remarks, Congressman Bobby Scott, co-chair of the US-Philippines Friendship Caucus, along with Congressman Darrell Issa, highlighted the importance of the strong social, economic, and political ties between the US and the Philippines.
“The United States is among the Philippines’ top trading partners, and it traditionally has been the Philippines’ largest foreign investor. Further, there are over 3 million Americans of Filipino ancestry in the United States today and I am proud to say that I am one of them,” said Congressman Scott.
“As we celebrate the 116th Anniversary of Philippine Independence, I want to reflect on the profound impact that both the country of the Philippines and Filipino Americans here in the United States have had on the fabric of our society,” he added.
Congressman Scott also encouraged Americans and members of the international community to do more to help the Philippines.
“Last November, Typhoon Haiyan ravished the Philippines’ coast as the strongest recorded storm to ever make landfall. Sixteen million people were affected by this storm and four million were displaced. Unfortunately, thousands of lives were also lost in this devastating storm,” he said.
He added: “While the response of both the United States and the international community has been strong and unified, we can do more. As a Caucus and as a Congress, we will continue to make sure that we stay informed on how we can best help and support our friends in the Philippines.”
During the reception, guests were serenaded by the multi-awarded UST Singers as well as tenor Rodell Rosel who sang Star Spangled Banner and the Broadway Barkada who sang Lupang Hinirang.