The event, which was held last July 15 at the St. Josaphat Banquet Center in Warren, was significant in that it was the first occasion to celebrate Philippine-American friendship that started at the turn of the 20th century.
In the Philippines, Philippine-American Friendship Day is celebrated on July 4 of every year.
The USP4GG-organized event was an opportunity to review the state of Philippine-American relations.
Filipino-American Owen Diaz, former mayor of Milan, Michigan, gave an update on the Philippine side of the relations, while State Senator Steven Bieda briefed the audience on the U.S. side.
Recent developments indicate that Philippine-American friendship is not as warm as it used to be. One such development is a shift in foreign policy that calls for the Philippines to be less dependent on the United States of America.
In pursuance of the new policy, President Duterte has sought to forge strong ties between the Philippines and two other super-power countries – namely, China and Russia.
The change in Philippine foreign policy came after former U.S. President Barack Obama criticized the Duterte administration on its bloody war on drugs. Reacting to the criticism, the foul-mouthed Duterte cursed Obama, calling him “son of a whore.”
Duterte had said, “Who is he (Obama) to confront me?” He also said that the Philippines had never received an apology for the misdeeds committed by the US during its colonization of the country.
As a consequence of the rift, then President Obama scrapped a planned bilateral meeting between him and Duterte at the sidelines of the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Vientiane, Laos last September.
The incident caused Philippine-American relations to turn sour. Later, however, the election of Donald Trump as new U.S. President changed the dynamics of Philippine-American relations with both Presidents appeared to have meeting of minds on critical issues, including Duterte’s war on drugs.
In retrospect, we could say that like personal friendship, Philippine-American friendship has its cold and warm periods. From the get-go, as Senator Bieda noted, the relationship was not good. In fact, it was baptized with blood during the Philippine-American war.
Yet despite the bloodshed and irritants, both countries have benefited from the relationship. Due to the Philippines’s strategic location, the U.S. used this Southeast Asian country as locations for its naval and air bases.
One benefit for the Philippines is the immigration to the U.S. of millions of Filipinos, many of whom have realized their American dream.
In the future, there will be challenges again to Philippine-American friendship. We are confident, though, that we will be able to overcome such challenges because as time has shown, our friendship is resilient.