‘String attached’ to US Aid? It’s training, know-how, not economic, military interests, says top US envoy

US Department of State Assistant Secretary Daniel Russel finally revealed on Monday, October 24, that there is indeed a string attached when the US gives assistance or help to the Philippines.

“I’ll tell you there is a string attached,” Russel told Filipino news reporters in a roundtable discussion. And the “string attached” is “when we transfer a system or ship to the Philippines. That string is training. We are as much about the software as we are about the hardware,” the US diplomat said.

Russel explained further what the “training” is all about: “You know the annual exercises the US and the Philippines conduct, many of them involving other friends of the Philippines in East Asia, served the purpose of sharing American know-how and expertise to make your soldiers better at their job, to help them respond at crisis and disasters whether it’s a typhoon or shipwreck or earthquake.”


In other words, the string attached to US Aid is to make sure the help—systems or hardware—is properly put to use. This is especially in conjunction with the joint exercises the Philippine military has with other countries (including the US) in securing the region against disasters.

However, to imply that US Aid is closely linked to US economic and military interests in the country is a far-fetched idea, according to Russel.

“To suggest that there are strings attached that connect to American economic interest or a policy position on an unrelated matter is factually wrong. That’s not how we roll,” Russel claimed during the discussion with Filipino journalists. US Aid is mostly for the interest of the Philippines, like “sharing American know-how and expertise to make your soldiers better at their job,” aside from serving the interests of the East Asian region, Russel assured his audience.

Russel denied the allegation made by Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay when he claimed that US support or aid to the Philippines was given with “strings attached.” The common notion is that the Philippines gets aid from America in exchange for hefty military and economic concessions.

Another notion is that US Aid keeps Philippine foreign policy subservient to US foreign policy. The aid allegedly serves as bait for special concessions and favors given the US in what Yasay called the “carrot and stick” approach of the US in its diplomatic relations with the country.

Thus, President Rodrigo Duterte, in his speech in Beijing during his recent state visit, announced his “separation” from the US, militarily and economically. Consequently, Russel came to Manila on Sunday to clarify what Duterte meant by “separation from the US” and its implications on the military and economic ties with the US.

However, Duterte had clarified his statement a few days after his Beijing speech, saying it’s simply a “separation of foreign policy” from US foreign policies and not cutting diplomatic ties between the two nations.

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