PALO, Leyte, (PNA) –- President Benigno C. Aquino has called for a renewed commitment to a stronger partnership with allied countries in his 10-minute speech during the 70th Leyte Gulf Landing Anniversary commemorative program on Monday.

“Let us renew our commitment to the strong and enduring friendships between the Philippines and its wartime allies, and perhaps most meaningfully, the countries that were once its foes,” the Chief Executive told a throng of veterans and their families, government officials, foreign dignitaries, and media.

The strength of these friendships, according to Mr. Aquino, was tested during the emergency phase after super typhoon Yolanda (internationally known as Haiyan) struck on November 8 last year.

“We saw, just last year, vessels bearing the proud names of those that had fought at Leyte Gulf, once more journeying to the Philippines: Ise from Japan, Washington and Denver from America,” the President said.

“Seventy years ago, ships with these names engaged in battle, seeking to eliminate the threat of the other; last November, they came here as partners, to demonstrate their unity with the Filipino people at a time of such massive loss and tragedy,” he said.

“Typhoon Haiyan saw countries who belonged to the Allied and Axis Forces, all once characters in a great war, united as friends in their desire to help the Filipino people,” he added.

The President echoed General MacArthur’s own words, “For our homes and hearts, for future generations of our sons and daughters,” and in the name of all those who made the ultimate sacrifice so many years ago.

He stressed that “there is no more fitting tribute to show that, from strife, not merely reconciliation, but genuine, meaningful solidarity is possible.”

The President likewise paid tribute to thousands of the people he called as heroes who came to the country 70 years ago in defense of freedom.

While he recognized the role of General Douglas MacArthur, President Sergio Osmeña, Generals Carlos P. Romulo and Basilio Valdes in ending the Japanese occupation, he said the effort was also a result of sacrifices of thousands.

“We gather to reaffirm that the story of the Leyte landings, and of the Philippine liberation, was woven not just by the resolve of an individual. It also consists of the stories of thousands upon thousands of brave men and women of different nationalities who came together in the Philippines,” Mr. Aquino said.

“Thus, on this occasion, we likewise pay tribute to the generation of GIs, sailors, Marines, airmen, and guerrillas, who fought to get here, and who continued the fight until the end of the war in 1945.

The President acknowledged that their numbers are dwindling. “We are reminded of the reality that, in time, what was so vivid to the wartime generation will pass from living memory.”

The Battle of Leyte Gulf, considered as the biggest naval battle in the World War had claimed 13,000 lives on both allied forces and Japanese sides.

President Aquino recalled that “campaign for the island of Leyte would add to that number, with 3,500 American and 48,000 Japanese casualties.”

The President said that the historic event has raised his consciousness of his decisions and its future impact to Filipinos.

“Looking back on the past, and on how previous leaders faced the supreme challenges of their times, I have always felt it incumbent upon me to seek out the lessons that will keep us from having to call on our people to make such sacrifices, and from having to embark on the path of disaster that led to so much suffering and loss.”

President Aquino arrived 9 a.m. Monday at the MacArthur Landing Memorial National Park in this town. He was accorded the traditional arrival honors, after which he led the flag raising and wreath-laying ceremonies.

After the commemorative program, Mr. Aquino toured a nearby business process outsourcing firm and proceed to Baybay City to visit the wake of Leyte Board Member Margarita Cari.

With the President were Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas and Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla, a former governor of Leyte province. (PNA)