The President's News Conference With President Fidel Ramos of the Philippines in Manila
President Ramos. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Today President Clinton and I took concrete steps towards enhancing Philippine-American relations. During our bilateral meeting, I expressed my sincere appreciation to President Clinton for the substantial participation of the United States Armed Forces in the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Leyte landing, 3 weeks ago.
Our meeting this afternoon enabled us to discuss a wide range of issues with direct import on our bilateral relations and the peace and stability of the Pacific. I acknowledged our debt of gratitude to America's commitment, to America's strength, and to America's keeping faith with her ideals and values in such areas as Haiti, the Persian Gulf, and the Korean Peninsula.
We both agreed to build our partnership on the basis of mutual respect and mutual benefit, reinforced by our common commitment to democracy and the rule of law. President Clinton and I recognize the value of enhancing the security and stability of the Asia-Pacific region and reiterated our commitment to the peaceful resolution of conflicts. We agreed that only under such conditions can the full economic growth and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region be realized.
I assured President Clinton that the Philippines will continue to support the peacekeeping initiatives of the United States and the United Nations, as we have recently manifested in a dispatch to Haiti of an initial contingent of 50 international police monitors, or IPM, from this country. And I also congratulated him for the United States role in the series of breakthrough agreements for peace and development in the Middle East and in the Korean Peninsula, which has lifted our hopes for its eventual denuclearization.
I have been assured, in turn, by President Clinton that they will encourage a higher level of investments by Americans. I also acknowledged his government's support for our bid to attain newly industrializing country, or NIC, status by the turn of the century. We further agreed to find ways and means to improve our two-way trade. The United States continues to be our number one trading partner, and we believe that we can greatly expand our trade by the further lowering of trade barriers.
To accelerate trade liberalization, President Clinton and I agreed on the urgency of the ratification of the Uruguay round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade by member countries. I assured him of the Philippines' commitment to trade liberalization and investment facilitation, which must be accompanied by conditions of national stability and political will.
We also agreed that the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, leaders summit in Indonesia will be a landmark forum that will shape the future course of the economy of the entire Asia-Pacific area and, indeed, of the world.
And we both affirmed the value of the Philippines-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty, or the MDT, and its contribution to regional security and stability. We agreed that our joint exercises, which are planned by the Mutual Defense Board, should be continued to ensure the interoperability of military units.
I appreciate President Clinton's effort to help resolve the longstanding issue of the claims of Filipino veterans of World War II with the United States Government. Even as I acknowledged the concern of leading members of the U.S. Congress for the restoration of Filipino veterans' rights. I welcome these assurances that the United States will work hand-in-hand with the Philippine Government in helping to promote the welfare of Amerasians in the Philippines.
President Clinton and I renewed our commitment to the protection of the environment and the preservation of the world ecological balance.
And lastly, I reiterated my appreciation for the warm welcome, hospitality extended by President Clinton and the American people during my visit to the United States last year. We look forward to moving Philippines-United States partnership to a higher and more mutually beneficial level in the years to come.
Thank you very much. Salamat.
President Clinton. Thank you very much. First, let me thank President Ramos for the warm welcome that the United States delegation has received here in the Philippines.
We had a very good bilateral discussion in which the President expressed the Philippine position and the interest of the Filipino people very articulately to me on a very large number of issues.
I would like to point out in general that over the last 50 years, the relationship between the United States and the Philippines has changed, has grown, has matured, but we are still very much bound together in ways that I think are positive. There are, after all, 100,000 Americans and more who make their home here permanently, and in the United States there are about 1 1/2 million Americans of Philippine ancestry.
We admire your democracy, and we have especially admired all the things which have been done in the last 8 years. We have an important security relationship. You heard the President talk about the joint exercises. I also was able to inform President Ramos that the United States will be able to supply the Philippine Armed Forces with two C-130's soon and that we will continue to discuss the possibility of shared equipment to build up the strength and the security of the Philippine Armed Forces.
We talked about regional security in general, and I want to again thank publicly President Ramos for the support that he has given to the agreement we have reached in cooperation with the South Koreans and the Japanese with North Korea, in which North Korea has agreed to become a nonnuclear state and to remove that threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. I also thanked President Ramos for the participation of the Philippines in our remarkable international coalition in Haiti.
Finally, we discussed our economic relationships. Most of what should be said has already been said by President Ramos, but let me say that I was deeply impressed when the President came to the United States and told me that his new policy was trade, not aid. That's a welcome message.
The United States purchased $5 billion in products from the Philippines last year. We are the largest investor here. We like being the largest purchaser and the largest investor. This morning, the Secretary of State hosted a breakfast which I attended for leading American business interests here, and I pledged to the President I would do what I could to increase the interest of the American business community in investment in the Philippines.
We both support GATT and hope that both of our legislative bodies will ratify it shortly. I am going home when I leave the APEC conference to achieve that objective, and I hope we do. I believe we will. And we are going to APEC with a view toward continuing to break down the barriers to trade and investment.
The United States will and must remain engaged in the Pacific region for security reasons and for economic reasons. One-third of our exports, supporting some 2 million American jobs, already go to the Asian-Pacific region. This is a very important thing for us. And the fact that we have the sort of relationship we do and that both of us are now going to Indonesia to try to deepen the idea that we should be working together across the vast Pacific to support the prosperity and future of our respective peoples is a very important one indeed.
So for all those reasons, I consider this to be a successful trip. And again, I thank the President for his kind hospitality and for his frank and open and straightforward way of stating the position of the Philippine Government and the Philippine people.
Philippine-U.S. Military Cooperation
Q. Good evening, sirs. My question is for President Ramos. Earlier today you applauded America's intention to remain engaged in the Asia-Pacific region. There has been much talk lately of U.S. plans for pre-positioning war material within the territories of strategically located countries such as the Philippines. Even now, reports indicate Manila and Washington are looking at a proposed agreement allowing U.S. warships to resupply and to refuel in the Philippines. Given these developments, in what direction do you want Philippine-American military cooperation to change or to evolve into during your term, or just how active a military presence do you want America to have both in the Philippines and within ASEAN's territory in the future?
President Ramos. Thank you.
First of all, we should distinguish between the floating depot issue and the lesser issue of servicing, which includes rewatering, refueling, and minor repairs and also rest and recreation. The servicing aspect is already being done, and example of this would be the visits last year of a British—of an American ship, plus other ships from other countries. We're doing this for them. And the most recent example is the visit here in Manila and later on in the Subic area of the ships that went on to participate in the Leyte landings.
In regard to the so-called floating depots, we really have not seen any official proposal in regard to that kind of an arrangement. And we will, however, be happy to consider this at the level of the working officials, meaning at the level of the mutual defense board. But by no means is that a policy right now of the Philippine Government.
Now, as far as directions that I would like to see the security relationship between the Philippines and the U.S. is concerned, I think I said that on many occasions during the course of this day—I said we would like to be closely related with the U.S. under our U.S.-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty which has been in force since 1951. And under this arrangement, we're able to have combined and joint exercises to test the interoperability of our military units.
The Philippines derives a great deal of benefit from this kind of an exchange because we get to know what are the new technologies in military science. And also, under the treaty, there is a regular mechanism for consultation among our highest military officials, represented on the part of the U.S. by the commander in chief of the Pacific, no less, and our chief of staff of the armed forces.
So we feel that this is a very important relationship, and the approach must be based on our commitments under the Philippine-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty.
Cooperation With Republican Leaders
Q. I'd like to ask President Clinton—sir, a lot of world leaders are wondering about the meaning of Tuesday's elections. As you go into APEC and talk with these other world leaders, what will you tell them about the Republican takeover of Congress and what that means about the strength of your administration and the direction of U.S. foreign policy?
President Clinton. First, I would say that I don't expect it to have any impact on our foreign policy. The Republican House and Senate leaders—and I spoke, as you know, before I came— they expressed their support for this trip and for our policy generally. The foreign policies that I have pursued, particularly the mission that I'm on now with regard to APEC, have enjoyed broad bipartisan support among centrists in both parties. And insofar as they have drawn opposition, they have drawn some opposition again from both parties, particularly in the trade area.
But I believe that the position of the United States is certainly just as strong as it ever has been. Beyond that, we do not have a parliamentary system. The power vested by the Constitution in the President to represent the United States in foreign affairs, particularly in areas of this kind, is quite clear.
But the most important thing is, I'm convinced that what I'm doing is in the interest of all the American people without regard to party and is supported by leaders of both parties in the United States Congress.
I hope you wear that tie at home sometime when we are having a dark day. [Laughter]
Toxic Waste Cleanup
Q. Good evening. President Clinton, in a hearing at the Philippine Senate a few days ago, a group of scientists, citing Pentagon reports, identified more than 40 sites in Clark and Subic believed to be contaminated with hazardous wastes. Your Government has offered financial assistance and technical support for surveys to check if there are environmental damages in both former U.S. military bases. Is your Government willing to accept moral as well as financial responsibility for cleaning up the bases in case these surveys prove that there are toxic wastes in Clark and Subic?
President Clinton. First of all, I'd like to point out that when the United States left Subic Bay, we spent about $6 million on cleanup, and we left 5,000 acres of virgin tropical forest, which was an enormous environmental resource for the Philippines. We have, since that time, worked very hard to cooperate with the authorities here about what the condition of Subic Bay is and each area of the bay. It's a vast area, as you know. We will continue to do that and to exchange information and to work on it.
We have no reason to believe at this time that there is a big problem that we left untended, first of all. We clearly are not mandated under any treaty obligations to do more, but we are concerned. We want Subic Bay to be a vast economic resource for the Philippines in a way that preserves the environmental heritage of the area.
We were very pleased and supportive of the agreement signed, I believe just today, and witnessed by the Secretary of State, between Federal Express and the authorities there to develop the area in a responsible way.
So we're excited by this; we want it to be a very good thing for you. We have spent some money there, we have given some important environmental resources, and we are continuing to work on it. But in the absence of the evidence of some serious problem that we left untended. I don't think I can commit at this moment to further expenditures. But I can tell you we are continuing to work with the Philippine Government on this, and we will continue to do so.
President Ramos. May I just add by way of confirmation, ladies and gentlemen, that I brought up the issue during our one-on-one talk with President Clinton, and he readily agreed that at the level of the technical people and the working people, principally in the departments of foreign affairs, environment, and natural resources, as well as the base authorities, that we put all our expertise together about the subject, because we have studies on our side, there are records on the part of the U.S. Government which have not yet been thoroughly collated, so that we will get to the truth of the matter. And while it may not be just toxic waste, we may really be talking here about pollutants which could have been sourced from many other places in addition to the naval forces in Subic. But anyway, we will get a good effort going together. Thank you.
President Clinton. If I could add just one more sentence. President Ramos did bring this up, and we talked about it in some detail. What I would like to say is, on a matter like this, I think it is very important not to let the general policy pronouncements or the rhetoric outrun the facts we have on the case. So we decided we should focus on finding the facts now, and when we find them, deal then with the facts as they are.
Cooperation With Republican Leaders
Q. Mr. President, Newt Gingrich, who is likely to be the next Speaker of the House, said the other day that he thought on the many things where he believes he represents the vast majority of America there will be no compromise. Cooperation, he said, yes; but compromise, no. Given this, do you expect to be able to work with Republicans, and can you move far enough toward the center to work with them and still not alienate the core constituency of your own party and perhaps invite a challenger for renomination?
President Clinton. Well, first of all, I think that any rational analysis of our position would say that's where we have been. It was not the opposition party, it was the Democrats that reduced the size of the Federal Government and reduced the Federal deficit for the first time in a very long time, the Democrats that passed a crime bill that had the toughest punishments of any crime bill in American history. So I think we will be in the center.
There are several specific things that they have advocated that I have long agreed with. To mention just two, I ran on the line-item veto, and I ran on welfare reform. And I presented a welfare reform bill to the Congress last spring, so I think there will be other areas in which we can work together. I am still looking for ways—the Vice President and I have had at least three different discussions, two before and once since the election, about how we can carry forward our downsizing the Federal Government with the reinventing Government initiative. So I think there will be many areas in which we can work together.
Will there be some areas of disagreement? Of course there will. What is my standard? My standard is, does it make America stronger or weaker to do this? As I said, does it weaken our posture abroad in terms of national defense and economic strength? Does it weaken our posture at home in terms of building stronger families, better schools, more high-wage jobs, and safer streets? That is my standard. Insofar as I can work with them, I will do my best to do it.
But my job as President is to make America strong and make the working people of the country who voice their frustrations, their anxieties, their uncertainties, more secure and make sure their children's future is better. That will be what guides me, not the politics of the matter but what makes America strong.
Democratic Governments in Asia
Q. My first question is for President Clinton. The second question will be for President Ramos. President Clinton, some political analysts read your Manila visit as a statement of support to democracy in view of the authoritarian governments of other Eastern countries. Do they read you right? If so, what global and, in particular, American interest is served by a democratic government in Asia?
And for President Ramos, are you satisfied with the support you are getting from friends like the United States on the path of democracy that you have taken?
President Clinton. I want to make sure—my hearing is not the best; I want to make sure that I heard the question right. You asked me what American interests were served by the advance of democracy in Asia. Is that right?
Q. Why you chose the Philippines, chose to visit the Philippines of all the other countries.
President Clinton. I chose to come to the Philippines partly because of the stunning success and resurgence of democracy here in the last 8 years. I chose to come here because I thought I ought to be here during this period when we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the return to freedom of the Philippines. And I came here, frankly, because of the relationship I enjoy with your President and my immense admiration for him and for what he is trying to do not only in preserving democracy and enhancing individual rights but in modernizing the Philippine economy and trying to give the people here the kind of prosperity that they deserve for their hard work, which is legendary the world over. So those are the three reasons that I came here.
Do I believe that democracy in general advances the cause and the interest of the United States? Yes, I do. Democracies are highly unlikely to go to war with each other. They are more likely to keep their word to each other. They are more likely to see their future greatness in terms of developing the human potential of their people rather than building walls around their country, either economic walls or military walls.
No democracies are perfect. All democracies have their ups and downs. But on balance, the world has been much better served by the march of democracy. And the United States is more secure when there are more democracies. Our national defense interests are threatened less; our economic interests are enhanced more. So that is why I intend to continue to push this throughout the world.
President Ramos. I may just make two points very clear. First of all, we are trying to achieve economic and social reform in this country under a democratic framework. While this may be a little more time consuming and may require a little more patience than other systems, we feel we are on the right track. And we are now seeing the initial fruits of that devotion to the rule of laws, to people power, and to the overall democratic system.
Secondly, I think no one can ignore the fact that over the last 20 years, there are now more democracies functioning in Asia-Pacific, our region, than there were two decades ago. And so, to me, this is the right track. And the Philippines is following precisely that way to its political, social, economic, and cultural development.
Q. Mr. President, it's clear that security and trade will be among the issues discussed at the APEC conference, but there is some speculation at this point that perhaps human rights will not come up. Specifically, do you intend on discussing human rights with China and Indonesia?
President Clinton. Absolutely. Let me make a distinction here between the APEC conference itself, the purpose of which by the very name of the group is economic cooperation, and the bilateral meetings that I will have with the leaders of the individual countries. And in both the cases that you mentioned, human rights has been discussed in every meeting I've had and will be discussed in these meetings. It's an important interest of the United States. We are engaging these countries in many, many areas, across a broad range of areas. And human rights is too important, particularly now, to pass by us. So it will be a point of discussion in those bilateral meetings.
Press Secretary Myers. That concludes the press conference. Thank you very much.
President Clinton. Thank you.
President Ramos. Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, permit me to make a small presentation to President Clinton, since he stayed for such a short while and could not play golf in our Malacanang Golf Club.
[At this point, President Clinton was presented with a hat.]
President Clinton. You owe me a golf game. Thank you.
NOTE: The President's 79th news conference began at 6:20 p.m. in Kalayaan Hall at Malacanang Palace.
William J. Clinton, The President's News Conference With President Fidel Ramos of the Philippines in Manila Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/218482