Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - The apparent upswing in longstanding relations between the Philippines and the United States is bound to continue in 2013, with both parties hoping to boost ties in the coming year.
In a New Year message, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia Jr. said 2012 was a year that saw deepening relations between the two countries, adding that he looked forward to an even more productive new year.
"We continued to exert efforts to widen and deepen relations between the Philippines and the United States on all fronts, including people-to-people ties. As recently noted by a US official, the two countries' relationship is in a 'renaissance,'" said Cuisia in his message posted on the website of the Philippine Embassy in the United States.
Related story: Chinese sea patrol in disputed territory alarms Philippines
He said 2013 bodes well for the Philippines with continuing political and economic reforms under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.
"Filipinos have many reasons to welcome 2013 with open arms. The country is at a critical juncture. Under the leadership of President Aquino, the Philippines has undergone a significant transition that establishes a direction of change that will shape our nation for years to come," said Cuisia.
"Reforms in the political and economic arena are bearing fruit and the President's continued high approval ratings are a testament to the people's trust and satisfaction in his administration. I look forward to another fruitful year, one filled with peace and blessings," he added.
US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr. was also upbeat, expressing his optimism on microblogging site Twitter.
"I want 2013 to be even stronger for US-Philippines alliance. It's going to be a great year," Thomas said.
In other news: Philippine church leaders urge laity to protest population bill
The United States is among the Philippines' strongest allies and has been supporting government's defence and law enforcement programmes, disaster preparedness, mitigation and response, human rights promotion and antitrafficking initiatives, among others.
In its yearend report, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) credited the Philippines' relations with the US in upgrading the Philippines' military and police forces through new equipment and training.
Partnership with US
"The Department continued to engage its international partners in helping the country improve its defence capability and achieve a minimum credible defence posture. Vital to this engagement is the Philippines' strategic and defence partnership with the United States, which affirmed its commitment to honour its obligation under the Mutual Defence Treaty," said the DFA report.
Also read: VIEW: Personal touch missing in Philippine education
As the Philippines' leading defence partner, the United States this year doubled its funding commitment from US$15 million to $30 million under its Foreign Military Financing programme. The allocation was programmed to support the Philippines in the areas of "maritime security, maritime domain awareness and humanitarian assistance and disaster response".
The United States is also among the biggest donors to victims of disasters in the Philippines, most recently Typhoon "Pablo", which hit eastern Mindanao.
The US government has pledged nearly 300 million pesos (US$7.2 million) to the Philippines for emergency assistance in hard-hit communities in Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental and Negros Oriental.
The amount is on top of rice supply and transport assistance being provided by the United States Agency for International Development and the US military to Philippine authorities.
North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea and vowed "merciless" retaliation Monday as the US and South Korea kicked off joint military drills denounced by Pyongyang as recklessly confrontational. The annual exercises always trigger a surge in military tensions and warlike rhetoric on the divided peninsula, and analysts saw the North's missile tests as a prelude to a concerted campaign of sabre-rattling. "If there is a particularly sharp escalation, we could see the …