Manila (August 19, 2022) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations East Asia, Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Subcommittee, and Representatives John Garamendi (CA-03), Don Beyer (VA-08), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), and Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen (AS) concluded their Congressional delegation travel to Asia in the Philippines. The visit to the Philippines was Senator Markey’s first since he was banned from visiting by the previous government for his vocal stance condemning the human rights offenses of former President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte.
During their visit, the delegation met with the U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission Heather Variava and other U.S. Embassy personnel to discuss U.S.-Philippines relations. The group also met with U.S. Director of the Asian Development Bank Chantale Wong to discuss the bank’s work in the region.
On Thursday, the delegation became the first U.S. Congressional delegation to meet with President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. since his inauguration on June 30 of this year. During the meeting, the delegation reaffirmed the important alliance relationship between the two countries, and discussed regional security challenges. Members also discussed ways to support the Philippines transition to renewable energy and address the climate crisis. The delegation raised concerns regarding the human rights record under the previous Government of the Philippines and expressed their hope that President Marcos, Jr. would set a new tone for the importance of human rights and freedom of the press.
“The United States remains a steadfast treaty ally of the Philippines and our people-to-people ties are unmatched,” said Senator Markey. “I am pleased to lead the first U.S. Congressional delegation to meet with President Marcos, Jr. and look forward to the promise of a renewed partnership with the newly elected government. I expressed to President Marcos my hope that he will turn the page on the human rights abuses of the previous government.”
Senator Markey and his colleagues later met with participants in the Aling Tindera network, which receives funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Clean Cities, Blue Ocean initiative. Aling Tindera provides a funding stream for local women-owned stores to serve as collection points for post-consumer plastic waste, thereby diverting it from the environment.
The delegation also met with the Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo and Secretary of Justice Jesus Crispin Remulla. During these meetings, the delegation discussed a range of issues including cooperation on renewable energy, U.S. support for human rights, press freedom, and LGBTQIA+ rights, and regional security issues, including the South China Sea.
The delegation met with members of the press from Rappler, the news organization founded by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa, to hear about the Philippine government’s campaign to close down Rappler and discuss press freedom and human rights. The Philippines remains one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist.
“The courage we have seen from the members of the Philippine press in speaking truth to power is inspiring. A free and independent press is the bedrock of any democracy,” said Senator Markey.
On Friday, the delegation concluded their travel by visiting with former Senator Leila de Lima, who remains imprisoned on politically motivated charges.
Senator Markey continued, “For too long, Senator Leila de Lima has been held on politically motivated charges. Despite this, her spirit remains undiminished. I call on the new government to release her and drop all charges without delay.”