US Philippines Society

  Raising Awareness of Today's Philippines in the US

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Peace and Development Initiatives 

On July 26, 2018, President Duterte signed into law the landmark Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) to provide autonomy in Muslim areas of the southern Philippines. Establishment of a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) is designed to address sources of conflict by strengthening regional political, security, and economic institutions, granting enhanced fiscal autonomy, and devolving taxing powers. A plebiscite on January 21, 2019 will determine the areas to be included in the new autonomous region. 

President Duterte (center) presents the Bangsamoro Organic Law to MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, August 6, 2018, Malacanan Palace, Manila. RVTM Screenshot
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis welcomes Philippine Secretary for National Defense Delfin Lorenzana at the Pentagon, Washington DC, September 18,  2018. Photo credit PH Embassy

Breakaway militant groups still pose a threat as the government addresses needs for reconstruction and development in the Marawi City area and beyond. 

U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim has pledged American government support for recovery through a $59 million grant for the rehabilitation of Marawi. U.S. non-government charitable organizations have also contributed to the recovery effort, including more than $122,000 raised by the US-Philippines Society for improving livelihood, providing education and medical needs of evacuees.

On the security front, Defense Secretaries James Mattis and Delfin Lorenzana met in Washington D.C., Sept 18 and announced, "their commitment to fighting terrorism and reaffirm U.S. military support to assist the Philippines in combatting ISIS and other violent extremist networks." Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Senator Cory Gardner, Chairman of Senate Subcommittee on East Asia and Pacific, also discussed security cooperation with Secretary Lorenzana during his Washington visit.

New initiatives supporting U.S. investment in  infrastructure, energy and the  digital economy were unveiled by Secretary Pompeo at a July 30 Indo-Pacific Business Forum hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. These initiatives are designed to promote American business engagement in key sectors throughout the region, including the Philippines.
Meeting with Defense Secretary Lorenzana

The US-Philippines Society led by President Ambassador John F. Maisto and Ambassador Thomas C. Hubbard  met with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to discuss a broad range of topics on security, maritime domain awareness, counter-terrorism, the mutual defense treaty and veterans affairs. The  State Department's Principal  Deputy Assistant Secretary for Southeast Asia, W. Patrick Murphy, participated in the meeting.

L-R: Ambassador Thomas C. Hubbard, Ambassador Jose Manuel G. Romualdez, Ambassador John F. Maisto, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and DAS W. Patrick Murphy

US-Philippines Society Directors engage Secretary Lorenzana on bilateral security issues.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and DAS Patrick Murphy, Meeting, September 19, 2018, Washington D.C.  

The US-Philippines Society (USPHS), the Project Handclasp Foundation (PHF), the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF) and the Makati Medical Center Foundation (MMCF) signed a memorandum of agreement in August providing educational support and  health services to children of families displaced during the 2017 five-month Marawi Siege.

This private sector initiative, "Children of Marawi Project," includes provisions of K-12 learning tools in traditional school settings and alternative learning spaces in Marawi. It will also equip a health facility in Barangay Sagonsongan, the largest relocation site in Marawi. 

PHF was founded by members of the US Navy as a worldwide humanitarian mission led by retired Commander Charlie Tevelson. Current Chair retired Rear Admiral Daniel McKinnon Jr., a USPHS member, said that the project is, "intended to help those now denied a normal life and unable to return to their schools and homes." He added, "the donation was given in the name of Tevelson, who was a leader in humanitarian assistance."

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is assisting the project by providing transportation to ferry  medical equipment and supplies to the area and with construction of  the rural health unit. Once operational, the RHU will be turned over to the local government.
Investing in Education

The Smart School-in-a-Bag, a portable digital classroom, is designed to facilitate learning in remote areas by utilizing mobile technology and innovative 21st-century teaching practices, and K-12 learning tools. Each package contains a preloaded laptop, compatible tablets, DVD player and disks, instruction books and guides, a projector and screen.  For areas off-grid, the kit is powered by solar battery, a pocket wi-fi and LED monitor.  On September 24, USPHS, PHF and PDRF turned over Smart School-in-a-Bag kits to cheering students in Calocan Elementary School, Abdulazis Elementary School, and Tuca Boganga Elementary School in Marawi. A fourth kit was given as an alternative learning system that will be rotated to serve evacuation centers in the city.

In accepting the kits, Assistant Schools Division Superintendent of Marawi Ana Zenaida Unte Alonto said that the School-in-a-bag project represents a lasting gift to  Marawi children  and will improve the quality of education by allowing classes to keep up with their school work until permanent educational facilities are restored.

Children of Marawi
Tuca Boganga Elementary School, Marawi City

Each School-in-a-bag contains pre-loaded K-12 curriculum subjects tailored to regional learning objectives. 
Marawi Barangay Sagonsongan
Artist Rendering of the Rural Health Unit, Marawi City  
Investing in Health

A health component of the "Children of Marawi" initiative will include construction of a multi-level, six classroom, semi-permanent rural health unit. PHF and the USPHS will provide new medical equipment and training for medical professionals who will staff the health unit. PDRF as the principal partner will oversee management and implementation of the project.

The project design's first floor will feature a complete and fully equipped health station with birthing facilities. The second floor will include facilities for psycho-social interventions and a safe space for youth - a children's corner, mini playpen, and learning area.

Photo credit PDRF
Marawi and Lanao Weavers orientation program, September 2018
Weaving Hope For Marawi

The "Weaving Hope for Marawi" project provides livelihood support for IDP women, including those widowed, and their children who were displaced by the 2017 armed conflict in Marawi.  Through this initiative, w omen weavers receive  training and learn about product development and marketing.  As primary caregivers, they are provided a safe family environment. The 16-month project is partly funded through donations  by the Philippine Nurses Association of America, the Philippine Humanitarian Coalition, and Society members.
China's Infrastructure Investments in the Philippines

PhD candidate at Johns Hopkins University Alvin A. Camba was the featured speaker at a July 26 presentation, "China's Belt-Road and Philippines 'Build Build Build!' Infrastructure Priorities," held at the Stimson Center, Washington DC. Camba examined the recent record of Chinese foreign investment in Philippine infrastructure. He focused on five key project priorities and offered policy recommendations based on quantitative analysis, extensive field research and official interviews.  Read more

China BRI
L-R: Amb John Maisto, Stimson's Brian Eyler, Amb Tom Hubbard, Alvin Camba and Hank Hendrickson.  

Punlaan students get holistic and values transformational education  
THE PUNLAAN BUILDING PROJECT: Uplifting Lives Against Poverty

The Manila-based Punlaan School  provides vocational training to  underprivileged women to equip them for jobs in the Philippines' expanding labor market.  A New Punlaan Building Project will expand facilities and include a modern library funded through the US-Philippines Society by the generosity of the Starr Foundation and USPHS Honorary Chair Maurice "Hank" Greenberg. Mrs. Vicky Cuisia and other civic-minded leaders in Manila are spearheading the project.


Philippine Ambassador Jose Manuel "Babe" Romualdez, in partnership with the US-Philippines Society, made a working visit to Frederick, MD, where he met with the mayor and community leaders, and explored business and cultural exchange opportunities, August 1. Centerpiece of his "diplomatic outreach" mission was a speech at the Frederick Rotary Club attracting an audience of more than 100 and calling attention to the shared history of the Philippines and the United States.

With family roots in Leyte Province, the ambassador referenced General MacArthur's 1944 Leyte Landing that led to Philippine liberation and independence. The ambassador related his own role more recently in fostering bilateral cooperation on disaster relief after Typhoon Haiyan hit Leyte with such destructive force in 2013. Ambassador Romualdez stimulated audience interest in the Philippines and drew questions ranging from South China Sea disputes to the Philippine position on climate change during a Q/A session.

As a fellow Rotarian, the ambassador bonded well with counterparts in the Frederick Rotary Club that included business and civic leaders. He congratulated the Frederick club for marking its 98th anniversary this year, and noted that the Manila Rotary Club is currently celebrating the 100th year of its founding - yet another example of enduring civic ties between the two countries and peoples.   Read more

L-R: Executive Director Hank Hendrickson, Jean Joyce, Ambassador Jose Manuel G. Romualdez, 
Rotary Club of Frederick President Anne Rollins, Rotary Club Member Hunt Hendrickson, August 1, 2018, Frederick, Maryland
Bamboo Whispers: A Peek into the Filipino Soul

The US-Philippines Society, Sentro Rizal Washington DC and Mangyan Heritage Center (MHC) jointly hosted the first overseas launch of the book entitled, "Bamboo Whispers, Poetry of the Mangyan" at the Philippine Embassy Chancery Annex on September 19, 2018. Ms. Lolita Delgado Fansler, co-editor of Bamboo Whispers and President of the Mangyan Heritage Center delivered an informative lecture about the Mangyan culture, languages and tradition that included presenting photos of ambahan bamboo inscriptions and Mangyan handicrafts, and chanting of ambahan poetry to the delight of the audience. Fansler co-founded the Mangyan Heritage Center aimed at preserving pre-Hispanic system of writing and poetry developed by Mangyan indigenous people. Her presentation was followed by Ambahan poetry reading in four languages: Spanish, Filipino, Mangyan and English.   Read more

Bamboo Whispers
US-Philippines Society President Ambassador John Maisto,  Embassy Public Diplomacy Officer Darell Artates, Gerald Gloria,  and  Dr. David Turner read ambahan poetry to the audience in Spanish, Filipino, Mangyan, and English.
Zuellig Family Foundation Apreciation
L-R: Zuellig Family Foundation President Ernesto Garilao, Chairman Amb Roberto R. Romulo, Lucille Ferraren (representing the US-Philippines Society), Board Trustees Daniel Zuellig and David Zuellig. 

US-PH Society Recognized

The Zuellig Family Foundation presented a Plaque of Appreciation to US-Philippines Society, a partner of ZFF in improving health outcomes of the Filipino poor, on September 25 at the Asian Institute of Management, Makati City, Philippines. ZFF Chair and USPHS Director Roberto R. Romulo and ZFF President Ernesto D. Garilao stressed the importance of partnerships for generating innovation in developing resilient local health systems in communities affected by disasters.