We used to observe Independence Day every July 4th in this country, since that marked the day in 1946 when the United States officially ended its presence in these islands after more than three decades of colonial rule and three years of the Japanese occupation during the Second World War.
The Diosdado Macapagal administration decided to move our Independence Day to June 12 every year as fitting observance of the inauguration of the First Philippine Republic in 1898.
The vestiges of American presence remain to this day, however, in the Mutual Defense Treaty under which the two sides commit to help each under in the event of an armed attack by a third party.
Today, we observe July 4th every year as Philippine-American Friendship Day. The two sides like to cite “special relations” owing to their long historical engagement encompassing economic, diplomatic, cultural and security arrangements in the post-war era.
But these “special relations” have been tested over the years.
The Philippine Senate voted in 1991 not to extend the Military Bases Agreement under which we hosted two large air and naval bases which the Americans used as launching pads for increased military involvement during the Vietnam War in the mid- 60s to early 70s.
The extraterritoriality provision in the MBA allowed American servicemen accused of murder and other crimes to escape prosecution in Philippine courts and be spirited away through the backdoor, triggering anti-American sentiment among nationalist groups.
The Subic Naval Base and Clark Air Base may have been closed down, but the security cooperation continues to this day in the Visiting Forces Agreement where the Philippines agreed to host military exercises between the two countries and the rules governing their presence here.
There’s also the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement where we agreed to the prepositioning of armaments as well as the deployment of military personnel in selected areas in the country to assist the armed forces in the training of local troops and intelligence gathering against suspected terrorist groups.
Economic assistance continues today through the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a foreign aid agency created by the US Congress in January 2004 that seeks to assist countries in fighting poverty.
The MCC model focuses on policy reforms and economic growth opportunities. It forms partnerships with some of the world’s poorest countries, but only those committed to good governance and investments in their citizens.
The Americans suspended the economic assistance to the Philippines during the Duterte administration in the wake of its bloody war on drugs.
The congratulatory message recently sent by US President Joe Biden to Ferdinand Marcos Jr. when it became clear that he had won the presidency in the May 9 election and the invitation extended by US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman for Marcos to attend a top-level meeting in Washington with other ASEAN leaders indicate a thawing of relations strained by human right issues during the previous administration that could pave the way for expanded bilateral ties in the next six years.