MANILA, (PNA) — President Benigno S. Aquino III conferred the Order of Sikatuna with the rank of Grand Cross, Silver Distinction (Datu, Katangiang Pilak) on outgoing United States Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr. in a ceremony held at the Music Room of Malacanang Palace on Monday.
The President conferred the prestigious award on the outgoing envoy in recognition of his invaluable contribution to deepening the relations between the Philippines and the United States.
The recognition cited the envoy’s “advocacy for a stronger, more robust Philippines- United States defense alliance, playing a key role in the signing of the 2011 Manila Declaration that reaffirmed the Philippines-United States of America Mutual Defense Treaty”.
Thomas was also recognized for advancing high-level dialogues and consultations between the Philippines and the US, facilitating the creation of mechanisms such as the Philippines-United States of America Bilateral Strategic Dialogue and the 2+2 Ministerial Consultations.
He was also cited for his outstanding contribution to the Philippine democracy and development, especially for taking the lead on the establishment and implementation of the programs under the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Partnership for Growth.
President Aquino also acknowledged Thomas’es steadfast support to the Philippines in times of calamities, especially for the significant assistance from the US to address the disasters caused by Typhoons Pablo and Sendong.
Thomas was also cited for pursuing activities that nurtured friendship, mutual appreciation and understanding between Filipinos and Americans.
Thomas was accompanied by Deputy Chief of Mission for the US Embassy Brian Goldbeck. Also present were Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario; DFA Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta; Colonel Rocky Carter, senior defense official-Philippines; and 3rd Secretary and Vice Consul Luke Meinzen.
It was earlier reported that US President Barack Obama has nominated former ambassador to Bolivia Philip Goldberg to replace Thomas.
The Order of Sikatuna was established in 1953 and is conferred by the President of the Philippines upon individuals who have rendered exceptional and meritorious services to the Philippines.
It is also bestowed upon diplomats, officials and nationals of foreign states who have rendered conspicuous services in fostering, developing, and strengthening relations between their country and the Philippines.