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16 April 2015 – Philippine Consul General Mario L. De Leon, Jr., accompanied by Filipino-American community members from New Jersey’s 6th district and Consul Felipe Cariño, called on New Jersey (NJ) Representative Frank Pallone in Long Branch, New Jersey, last April 07, to continue efforts to build strong friendships and raise awareness among US officials of issues affecting Philippines-US relations.

The Filipino community members accompanying Consul General De Leon were Atty. JT Mallonga, National Chair, National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA); Mr. Emerito Salud, Esq., Board of Governors, NaFFAA, Bloomfield, NJ; Ms. Gilda Sapaden of Hanover,NJ; Mr. Roberto Ticzon, Financial Professional, Prudential Insurance Company of America, East Hanover, NJ; and Councilor Nick Joanow, Bloomfield NJ.

Community members usually accompany Consul General De Leon during such calls not only to lend support but also to raise local issues of importance to them, particularly for those living in the same district of the Congressman. 

Consul General De Leon stated that Filipinos and Filipino-Americans in the United States are now the second largest Asian-American population in the US, next to the Chinese. The latest US Census puts 7,156 Filipino-Americans in the 6th District of New Jersey.

Consul General De Leon took the opportunity to thank Congressman Pallone for his co-sponsorship of House Resolution (HR) No. 535 on the Philippine Veterans’ recognition for the Congressional Gold Medal Award, which is awaiting action in the US Congress.  This award is important to Filipino veterans and their family members who remain hopeful that the US will finally recognize the contribution and sacrifice of Filipino veterans’ in World War II.     

Representatives Juan Vargas and Mike Thompson, both Democrats in California, filed the bill in January of this year. The bill seeks to obtain recognition for Filipino and Filipino American WWII veterans for their services and make them qualify for the Congressional Gold Medal Award – an honor previously given to other minority groups.

The Consul General also conveyed the status of the ongoing arbitration case filed by the Philippines against China on the issue of the West Philippine Sea.  A decision on the merits and jurisdiction of the court is expected to be issued between January to April 2016.  He cited the US Senate Resolution affirming the importance of preserving the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and the integrity of the Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty.  He underscored that the Philippines has always adhered to rule of law, particularly the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.  

Lastly, Consul General De Leon took the opportunity to invite Representative Pallone to join the Philippines-US Friendship Caucus. 

The 14th-termer Representative Pallone reiterated his support for Filipino veterans and HR 535.  He shared  that his father was in the US Air Force as a tail-gunner in a B-29 aircraft in WWII and saw action in the Philippines and served also in Japan.  He also welcomed Consul General De Leon’s invitation to the Friendship Caucus and expressed his willingness to join as a member soon. 

Representative Pallone was likewise pleased to be informed of developments relating to the arbitration case.  He expressed concern on China’s action in the South China Sea vis-à-vis other claimants such as the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.

On their part, the accompanying Filipino community members aired their concern over China’s actions in the South China Sea and expressed hoped that the US would honor its commitment to the Philippines, based on the existing Mutual Defense Treaty. 

One Filipino leader, on the other hand, shared the ongoing campaign of the Filipino community dubbed “Filvote” to increase voter registration in US elections, which Representative Pallone lauded. Another leader expressed the hope that many Filipinos will participate in US elections. END