Philippines: Sen. McCain & Lieberman take PH side in West Philippine Sea dispute with China

Manila - The name John McCain is no stranger to the Philippines, It was here where as a young man the senator's father served as commander at the former US Naval base at Subic Bay. McCain first tasted freedom from years as prisoner of war touching down at Clark Field on the Island of Luzon.

With few exceptions; the American senator and his companions have probably one of the longest and strongest personal ties to the country. When McCain as well as Joe Liberman, as well as Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire met with Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario; issues discussed included U.S. defense and development assistance to the Philippines.

McCain: Concern over intrusions into 'West Philippine Sea'

Senator McCain, who in his remarks referred to the "West Philippine Sea" and issues over Chinese Navy intrusions into the Philippine Province of Palawan's waters.

The DFA also briefed updated the delegation on US funded programs like "the Mindanao Peace Process, ASEAN, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), Myanmar, climate change and the renewed engagement of the U.S. in the Asia Pacific. "

The Philippine Foreign Secretary expressed, "Appreciation for U.S. Senate Resolution 217, which was passed on 27 June 2011, which called for a peaceful and multilateral resolution to maritime territorial disputes in the disputed islets and reef just off shore of the Philippine Island of Palawan and over several hundred miles from China."

Del Rosario; also thanked the Senator for his position about the need to maintain freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea; and for stressing the need for U.S. support in defense of the Philippines as America's former commonwealth and oldest and closest ally in ASEAN.

Senator McCain, expressed "strong affinity" for the Philippines and noted the "long and friendly personal relationship" between the two countries, conveyed that the best way to avoid confrontation with China is to maintain freedom of navigation.

Secretary del Rosario also requested the U.S.' assistance on the Philippine Government's request for a third Weather High Endurance Cutter (WHEC), which would enable the Philippines to attain minimum credible defense posture and to enhance maritime domain awareness.

In response, Senator McCain committed that they "will try to get a waiver on the cutter" as he sees that it would be unreasonable not to give it" to the Philippines. He also said that they would do whatever they could to help the Philippines improve its maritime security." A media release on the event from the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said.

Lieberman: Philippine cooperation on counter-terror 2nd to none

As chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security, Senator Lieberman conveyed his gratitude for the Philippines' cooperation in counterterrorism and requested updates on the Mindanao Peace Process.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis provided updates on the Government of the Philippines-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (GRP-MILF) Peace Process, and expressed optimism that a peace agreement will be signed between the two panels before the end of the Aquino administration.

The visit of Senator McCain and his delegation to the Philippines is part of their trip to Southeast Asia which includes Vietnam and Myanmar. The visit's purpose is to broaden and deepen the existing defense and security relations between the two countries.

The Quartet of US Senators met with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III later Tuesday night - Aquino who says he "Will continue to focus on the country's economic growth." earlier in the week he also welcomed Chinese investors into the country. Palace officials note both Taiwan and PRC investments are most welcome to Manila. But "Naval incursions are not" in side remarks to visiting US senators.

The Aquino Administration which says it is firm in "its commitment to good governance, it also would not waver in pursuing equitable economic growth, citing solid accomplishments such as creating an additional 2.1 million jobs last year, as well as having increased tourist arrivals by about a million additional visitors in 2011," Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a statement released to the media on Tuesday afternoon said.

"The great strides that have been made in curbing corruption, fighting poverty, and promoting good governance—the achievements of the past one and a half years—are only indicators of the changes that will continue to sweep the Philippines in the coming years," he added.

In the recent meeting of the President with the members of the US Congress, Lacierda said the American legislators expressed their confidence in the reform agenda of the Aquino administration.

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