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Left photo:  Consul General Marciano Paynor giving welcome remarkS. Middle Photo : Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert F. Del Rosario addressing the members of the audience. Right Photo :  State Senator Mark Leno giving a few remarks at the meet and greet event held at the Philippine center Gallery, July 19, 2013.

In his first visit to San Francisco as Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Secretary Albert del Rosario met with the members of the Filipino American community in the Bay Area during a reception held at the Philippine Center on July 19, 2013.

The Secretary was reunited with Fil-am leaders and friends whom he has worked  with   when he served as the Philippine Ambassador to the United States. He also met the next generation of Fil-am leaders, who are successful in their chosen fields and have contributed significantly to raising the profile of the Fil-am community in the Bay Area.  He also acknowledged the presence and contributions of the Filipino veterans.

In his remarks, the Secretary proudly shared the positive news about the Philippines, including its robust economic growth and investment grade ratings.  He attributed these  achievements to President Benigno S. Aquino III’s firm belief that good governance will result in good economics. The President’s good governance agenda, he added, was an offshoot of his Social Contract with the Filipino people, which also aims to lift the nation from poverty.

Secretary del Rosario said the Social Contract has guided the Department of Foreign Affairs in pursuing the three pillars of Philippine foreign policy, namely, promoting national security, enhancing economic diplomacy and the protecting the rights and welfare of Filipinos overseas.

In promoting national security, the Secretary said the Philippines has been strengthening and expanding its engagement with the international community through the bilateral, regional and multilateral frameworks. Economic diplomacy, on the other hand, is being pursued by building and strengthening the Department of Foreign Affairs’ capacity to promote trade and investments, through partnerships with academic and business institutions such as the Asian Institute of Management. The Secretary also shared his own experience in protecting the rights and welfare of Filipinos overseas, particularly how he personally travelled to critical areas in the Middle East to lead efforts at repatriating Filipino citizens.

Secretary del Rosario gave a brief overview of the status of Philippine-US relations, US-China relations and the West Philippine Sea issue. In describing Philippine-US relations, the Secretary echoed the words of Secretary of State John Kerry, who said “our relationship has never been better.”  He added that the Philippines and the US have comprehensive relations that is rooted in people to people relations, mutually beneficial economic partnerships and a robust strategic alliance. According to him, the Philippines is closely following US-China relations and its impact in the Asia-Pacific region, and looks forward to a mutually beneficial mode of cooperation between the two countries.

On Philippine relations with China, the Secretary said that despite its maritime disputes in the West Philippine Sea, the Philippines still pursues a constructive relationship with China. The Philippines, he said, has pursued a three pronged approach to resolve the disputes peacefully – political, diplomatic and the legal track. “Having exhausted almost all political and diplomatic avenues, the Philippines has focused on a rules based approach to defend what is ours,” Secretary del Rosario said. He hopes that the arbitration of the disputes based on UNCLOS would finally clarify the maritime entitlements of the Philippines and China in the West Philippine Sea. He also said that ASEAN members and China have recently agreed to start working on an ASEAN-China Code of Conduct.

The Secretary noted how impressed he was with the Filipino American community in the Bay Area and how they have greatly contributed to both the Philippines and US societies. Earlier, Consul General Marciano A. Paynor, Jr. introduced the Secretary to several Fil-am leaders, whose organizations have partnered with the Philippine Consulate to promote Filipino culture, heritage and creativity, trade and investments, capacity building for entrepreneurs, start ups, business services providers and law enforcement personnel.

In closing, the Secretary lauded the community for their excellence in their chosen fields, for their altruism, particularly by giving back to the homeland, and most importantly, for passing on their legacy to others.