MANILA – The United States envoy to the Philippines on Thursday said Washington is ready to work with Manila’s newly-elected lawmakers, as analysts noted how the roster dominated by President Rodrigo Duterte's allies seen to consolidate his power and push for his legislative priorities in Congress.
“I wanna congratulate the people of the Philippines for another very exciting and vibrant election. The voter turnout in the Philippines is usually much higher than in the United States, and I think that’s an indication of the vibrancy of the democracy here and I also offer my congratulations to all the winners from the election...We look forward to working with the elected leaders in Congress,” US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim told reporters in a forum Thursday.
Among legislation expected to be tackled in the incoming Congress are the revival of the death penalty and the proposed shift to federalism, both administration priorities.
But with regards to whether the US would support such measures in the Philippines, Kim maintained “it is for the Filipino people to decide.”
“We stand to work with the Philippines whatever they decide their future should be in terms of political system. I do think, because we have such a long history of federalism, it would be worthwhile for Filipino policymakers and intellectuals thinking about this question to look at how we have done it in the US because I think it could be a good model for the Philippines,” he said.
'OPPOSITION IMPORTANT IN DEMOCRACY'
The US envoy also said Washington would continue to work with the political opposition, which suffered a sweeping electoral loss.
“The Philippines has a very vibrant democracy and I think the opposition’s voice is important in a vibrant democracy. So, regardless of the election results, I expect that we will continue to be in dialogue with the ruling and opposition camps on how best to move forward to elevate this country’s standing,” Kim said.
The diplomat deemed the victory of Duterte allies in the polls as a reflection of not only his popularity, but also of the good economy.
He noted that economists have been predicting “a very bright future” for the country and that a number of US companies have strong interest in expanding their businesses in the Philippines.
“We have seen in many elections where the health of the economy is an important consideration for voters in any country,” Kim said.
The ambassador expressed hopes for the growth of Philippine-US trade and investment ties on the second half of Duterte’s term as he assured Washington’s continued backing, especially for the Build, Build, Build program that seeks to accelerate infrastructure spending and develop industries that would yield robust growth and create jobs.