Two of President Duterte’s most outspoken political enemies were among the VIPs invited aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt when it called at Manila Bay.
Senator Antonio Trillanes and Congressman Gary Alejano — both former military men with convictions for mutiny — were among the guest list for the aircraft carrier’s port visit last weekend.
Senator Trillanes said the ship’s visit signified the USA’s resolve to challenge Beijing’s claims over the disputed South China Sea.
“It also conveys an assurance to the Filipino people that they are ready to support the country, as our treaty ally, should the need arises,” he said. “The visit is a way also of projecting its military power in the region where China has becoming increasingly aggressive to smaller countries which have competing claims with her in South China Sea.”
Addressing the guests aboard the Nimitz-class carrier US Ambassador Sung Kim described the visit to Manila Bay as a clear message that the US-Philippine alliance was “unbreakable”.
He said: “The namesake of this amazing ship is of course the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. Teddy Roosevelt, as many of you know, was a soldier, a visionary president, a Nobel Prize winner and famous for creating the famous saying, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”
“Well, over a thousand feet long and weighing in at well over hundred thousand tons, sticks don’t come any bigger than the Theodore Roosevelt.
“But I might take exception to the first part of the Teddy Roosevelt saying about speaking softly. I think there are times when we should speak loudly and clearly.
“And the presence of the Theodore Roosevelt here in Manila Bay sends a very clear message to everyone in the region, especially to our friends in the Philippines because our commitment to the US-Philippines alliance is unbreakable and will remain so indefinitely.
“Our friendship has never been stronger and we have been and remain an Indo-Pacific nation. And our commitment to this region and its well-being is enduring.”
Other VIPs onboard included Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Congressman Reynaldo Umali, Ayala chairman and CEO Jaime Augusto Zobel De Ayala, and former Army spokesman Major General Restituto Padilla.