U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines meets with Filipino community in Honolulu

US Ambassador to the Philippines meets with Filipino community members in Honolulu
Published: Oct. 1, 2022 at 10:34 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 2, 2022 at 10:30 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - America’s top diplomatic official to the Philippines is in Honolulu this week for high level security meetings.

U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson joined top Philippine military officials in meetings with U.S. defense secretary Lloyd Austin and Indo Pacific Command’s top brass.

But defense isn’t the only priority.

Carlson met with a few members of the Filipino community on Saturday for some food diplomacy at Terry’s Place in Chinatown.

A career diplomat, Carlson is just a few months into her stint as the U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines -- but she’s hit the ground running.

“I had the honor to to participate in that meeting, and to see firsthand the significance of our alliance, and to see that it is a an evolving and enduring partnership between our two militaries, that benefits our peoples, because the security, you can’t have economic development, or education or anything without that security cooperation,” she said.

Economic development is top of mind for many Hawaii Filipino entrepreneurs, young professionals and politicians, who met with Carlson for a roundtable lunch.

Melody Calisay runs an import business -- she wants to know what the U,S, is doing about China’s growing influence in the region and potential impact on trade.

“I was able to share with her my future concerns especially I’m a businesswoman. And I know what the what is going on on the shipping problems in the Philippines. So she gave me a very good perspective on what to expect,” Calisay said.

But military interests aren’t the only reason the United States and the Philippines have maintained strong ties for more than 75 years, despite some bumps during the prior administration.

“I’m so excited to be part of reinvigorating the partnership as we come out of primarily two years of a pandemic experience, where all relationships of all types were constrained,” Carlson said.

Carlson said the U.S. is working to improve access to veterans services and expedite visa processing and other consular issues.

“We are working very diligently to to increase our operations again. But it’s not like turning on a switch. I wish it work. But we are committed to improving our services and reducing the wait times,” Carlson said.

Some believe bringing in overseas workers could be one solution to the labor shortage crisis.

“Whether it’s in teachers or nurses or, or folks who do landscaping, that we can do what we can to make sure that under the constraints of the laws of both of our countries, that we facilitate immigration and travel to the greatest extent possible,” Carlson said.

Just as the early waves of Filipino workers helped grow Hawaii’s economy, some believe a new wave can help with post-pandemic recovery.