Palace: Obama’s choice of envoy to RP heralds warmer relations ahead
MANILA, Philippines--US President Barack Obama’s appointment of a new envoy to the Philippines to replace Ambassador Kristie Kenney augurs well for the two countries’ relations, Malacañang said Saturday.
“Considering that the incoming ambassador is the personal choice and personal nominee of President Barack Obama, that could only mean one thing: That this will all go well for friendlier, warmer and better US-Philippine relations,” Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said over dzRB radio.
His appointment of Harry K. Thomas was proof that Obama “walks his talk about giving importance” to the Asia-Pacific region, Remonde said.
The appointment came a week after the high-level visit to the country of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Remonde praised outgoing ambassador Kenney for exerting all efforts to reach out to Filipinos.
Not smooth sailing
“We would like to thank Ambassador Kristie Kenney. We’ve seen how nice she is. She’s one of the most popular American ambassadors to the Philippines. We’re sad and we’ll miss her,” he said.
But the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan warned Thomas that he would be facing a tough time in the Philippines because of lingering questions on the presence of US troops in Mindanao and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the treaty governing the conduct of American soldiers in the country.
“It won’t be smooth sailing for the new envoy. Ambassador Thomas will face the still unresolved issue of the Visiting Forces Agreement. He will face calls for the review and termination of the VFA. He will face queries on the permanent presence of US troops in Mindanao,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said.
He said Thomas would be judged “based on his engagement of issues.”
Reyes said Thomas’ predecessor, Kenney, often took time out to interact with Filipinos by showing up at collegiate basketball games and TV game shows, but she was leaving behind unresolved issues.
“While seemingly departing from the mold of the ‘cold warrior’ envoys of old through her populist actions, Kenney consistently upheld US imperial interests during her stint. Aside from watching college ball games and appearing on Wowowee, Kenney should also be remembered for taking in a convicted Lance Corporal Daniel Smith into US embassy custody in violation of Philippine laws,” he said.
After Smith was sentenced by a Makati court to 40 years in prison in December 2006 for the rape of a Filipino woman, Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo and Kenney forged an agreement to transfer Smith from the city jail to the US embassy.
The Court of Appeals acquitted Smith in April this year, saying the evidence did not convince it of the “moral certainty” of Smith’s guilt. He has since been freed and flown to the US.
“For all her efforts to give the ‘war on terror’ a chummy spin, controversies in the VFA, human rights violations and US basing in the South still came to the fore. She will leave behind many unresolved issues, including those that have spurred a Philippine Senate resolution calling for a review or termination of the VFA,” Reyes said.
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