Remarks Following Discussions With President Corazon C. Aquino of the Philippines
September 17, 1986
President Reagan. It was truly a pleasure to welcome and meet today with Philippine President Corazon Aquino. Her courage and her commitment to democracy, mirroring those same qualities in the Filipino people, have inspired the world, and it's been an honor to have her as our guest. President Aquino and I discussed her strenuous efforts to bolster the democratic institutions of her country and to ensure its security and strengthen its economy. And I assured her that all America wants the Philippine democracy to succeed and to prosper and that we'll do what we can to help.
These have been trying times in the Philippines. President Aquino has been overseeing an historic transition. In the coming months a new constitution will be submitted which will pave the way for strong, democratically elected local and national governments. In the meantime, President Aquino has been doing her level best to unite her richly diverse people under a banner of freedom and opportunity. Her efforts to reconcile all elements of her society and bring them into the democratic process are applauded here. I might add that her personal bravery in this heroic endeavor to diffuse conflict has won the hearts and imagination of the people everywhere.
Despite President Aquino's efforts, however, well-armed Communist guerrillas remain a threat to democracy in the Philippines. President Aquino and I discussed her strategy to meet this challenge. It includes attacking the root political, economic, and social problems that feed insurgencies. The second half of the formula is building the Philippine military into a professional, properly armed and trained force that is capable of dealing with any threat. The United States stands ready to assist President Aquino in her quest to create a stable and secure land as well as in her commitment to invigorate the Philippine economy.
During our discussion today, President Aquino reaffirmed her belief that free enterprise is the surest path to development, the surest method of opening the door of opportunity and advancement to all her people. Her government stands for free trade and is encouraging private investment. She knows in the long run nothing would better serve the Filipino people than unleashing the entrepreneurial spirit and putting the creative and economy-building power of the marketplace to work. As one might surmise, after hearing this, I'm bullish on the Philippines. I would hope American as well as foreign investors take notice of this incredible opportunity to help build a country. For our part, we will mold our efforts to encourage development in the Philippines. Today, for example, we discussed the idea of increasing Philippine exports to the United States, including improved treatment under our generalized system of preferences.
We also considered ways in which the Philippines can provide a larger share of the goods and services consumed by the U.S. military facilities within that country. And just a side note, when talking about those bases, our two countries share common interests in the peace and stability of the Pacific region. I'm confident that we will continue to enjoy a strong mutual defense relationship for the foreseeable future. President Aquino reaffirmed today that the military bases agreement will be respected through its current term. I understand and am comfortable with her position. The next review of our defense relations is scheduled in 1988, and that gives us and the people of the Philippines plenty of time to think about it.
In the meantime, I will continue to ask Congress for appropriate levels of economic and military assistance above and beyond existing U.S. base-related commitments. The latest installment of our current aid effort -- a $100 million grant of economic support funds, which I'm pleased to announce will be signed by our respective Cabinet members in a few moments, a $50 million grant of military assistance, along with a $20 million package of medical supplies and services -- has been approved. In the future, to the largest extent possible, future U.S. aid will be designed to provide the greatest benefit without exacerbating the country's debt burden.
And one last thought: Today governments, businesses, financial institutions, and individuals are dealing with a new kind of government in the Philippines. We're dealing with a noble and honest people -- people with ideals, people we can trust. And we place a high value on character and hope everyone appreciates this and takes it into account. A great Filipino hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, once wrote, ``God is justice: He cannot abandon His cause, the cause of liberty, without which no justice is possible.'' Well, Jose Rizal, like President Aquino's husband, died for freedom and inspired his nation.
President Aquino and I reaffirmed the commitment of our two peoples to the ideals which so many Americans and Filipinos have given their lives, and we also reaffirm the bonds of friendship and affection between the United States and the Philippines. It was truly an honor to have her here. Thank you, and God bless you.
President Aquino. Thank you, President Reagan. This has been an opportunity to get to know each other, to explore common issues together. Above all, though, I can say that for my part the most important aspect has been the chance to meet each other.
We are both politicians who set great store on face-to-face encounters. Government-to-government contacts have their proper place, yet when the leadership of a country changes in such a dramatic fashion, as happened in the Philippines, it is only right that the Presidents of two such close allies meet and get to know each other. Issues do not generate of their own accord the decisions that will resolve them. In the end, decisions will be made by the people who have the responsibility to make them.
From this meeting today both our governments will go out with a clear sense of priorities, with a recognition that we must both work hard to strengthen the bonds between us. I hope we have set the tone and direction for a new relationship. By recovering our democracy, we Filipinos have recovered our self-confidence and pride and hence our ability to deal with our major ally on an equal footing. This is the only basis for a relationship between friends, and I think we were able to start on that agenda today. I was able to explain to President Reagan the problems we have inherited, all of them rooted in a devastated economy. I was also able to outline to him what we are doing to set things right. I am gratified that President Reagan understands and supports what we are trying to do.
As you know, we have placed our faith in the private sector as the stimulus of growth. I also briefed the President on the wide range of reforms we have embarked on to resolve our difficulties. A new constitution is in the final stages of drafting. There will be a referendum on it followed by elections early next year. We are carrying out a long-overdue program of military reform. Within this context of an economic reconstruction, political rebuilding, and military reform, we can combat our remaining problem: the insurgency. As you know, we are pursuing a political approach, but this is backed by the military option. In all these areas of rebuilding, I hope we can count on American support and understanding.
But most important, reform is being done in a new environment of freedom, human rights, and democracy. So, as today's discussions showed, we have a lot of values in common again. We admire freedom and hard work in just the way you do. For two countries who have a faith in God, in freedom, in the family, and in democratic values, we should allow nothing to come in the way of an ever-growing friendship. Today was a good beginning, and I thank you all for it.
Note: President Reagan spoke at 1:35 p.m. at the South Portico of the White House. Earlier, the two Presidents met in the Oval Office and then attended a luncheon in the Residence. Following the Presidents' remarks, Secretary of the Treasury James A. Baker III and Philippine Minister of Finance Jaime Ongpin signed an agreement providing for $100 million in U.S. economic assistance to the Philippines.