MANILA, Philippines - Members of the United States congressional delegation met with President Aquino in Malacañang where they also expressed their regrets over a United States Navy vessel’s running aground at the Tubbataha Reef, according to Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.
The delegation was composed of US House Committee on Foreign Affairs chairman Edward Royce, Eliot Engel (D-New York), Vern Buchanan (R-Florida), Thomas Anthony Marino (R-Pennsylvania), Gregory Meeks (D-New York), and Matthew James Salmon (R-Arizona).
The congressional delegation also expressed support for the Philippines’ move to bring the country’s territorial row with China before an arbitral tribunal.
“On the part of the President, he thanked this congressional delegation. He thanked Congressman Ed Royce for co-sponsoring the SAVE Act. The US congressional delegation also, through Congressman Ed Royce, expressed regrets over the Tubbataha Reef (incident),” Lacierda told reporters.
“The US delegation also supported the position of the President in bringing the dispute to the UN arbitral tribunal, consistent with our policy of maintaining a peaceful resolution to the West Philippine Sea dispute. Also, the President explained the position why we had to bring it to the arbitral tribunal,” he added.
The Palace welcomed the delegation’s “expression of support.”
“A strong support from a country like the US and also from any nation which has an interest in the freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea or in the South China Sea, to a larger extent, is certainly welcome to the Philippines,” Lacierda said.
Also discussed during the visit were trade and investment cooperation and regional issues.
Lacierda said that the delegation expressed bullishness on the Philippine economy and their desire to explore more business opportunities in the country.