Philippines’ Marcos to forge stronger relationship with US during visit By Reuters

by The Insights

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden attends a bilateral meeting with Philippine President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos, Jr. in New York, New York, U.S. September 22, 2022. REUTERS/Leah Millis

By Karen Lema and David Brunnström

MANILA/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said his meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday was key to advancing his country’s national interests and strengthening the “very important alliance” between Manila and Washington.

Before leaving for his four-day official visit to Washington, Marcos said on Sunday he would convey to Biden his determination to forge “an even stronger relationship” with the United States to “address the concerns of our time,” including including the questions related to the economy.

“During this visit, we will reaffirm our commitment to promoting our long-standing alliance as an instrument of peace and a catalyst for development in the Asia-Pacific region, and indeed for the rest of the world,” Marcos said. , the son of the late strongman whom Washington helped flee into exile in Hawaii during a 1986 “people power” uprising.

Marcos’ official visit to Washington is the first by a Philippine president in more than 10 years, and the latest in a series of high-level meetings the Philippines has held with the leaders of the United States and China, who are jostling for a strategic advantage in the region.

Biden and Marcos are expected to strike deals on greater trade engagement, as well as “military upgrades” amid shared concerns about China, a senior Biden administration official told Reuters.

The senior US administration official said it was impossible to underestimate the strategic importance of the Philippines, although the relationship is not limited to security.

The official said that as part of measures to strengthen trade ties, US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo would lead a presidential trade delegation to the Philippines.

As Marcos sought good relations with China and the United States, Manila was increasingly concerned about Beijing’s “provocative” diplomacy and sought stronger ties with allies, he said.

“We do not seek to be provocative, but to provide both moral and practical support to the Philippines as they attempt to navigate their way through a complex Western Pacific,” the official said. “Their geographical position is critical,” he added.

Experts say Washington views the Philippines as a potential location for rockets, missiles and artillery systems to counter a Chinese amphibious invasion of Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory.

Marcos’ visit to Washington comes after the Philippines on Friday accused the Chinese Coast Guard of “dangerous maneuvers” and “aggressive tactics” in the South China Sea. The maritime confrontation between the two countries comes despite a visit to Manila this weekend by Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang.

In the face of such pressure from China, the Philippines and the United States have quickly stepped up their defense commitments, including large-scale military exercises and a recent expansion of American access to Philippine bases. China opposed the base agreement.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said earlier this month that it was “too early” to discuss which assets the United States would like to station at bases in the Philippines.

It’s a sensitive issue for Manila, not only because of its concerns about China, its biggest trading partner, but also given domestic opposition to the US military presence in the past.

The two sides agreed to complete a roadmap in the coming months for the delivery of US defense assistance to the Southeast Asian nation over the next five to 10 years.

Alluding to the difficult period in bilateral relations under Marcos’ predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, the official said Monday’s summit would be part of efforts to bring “alliance management habits” back to 1970s levels and 1980.

The official said the United States planned to strengthen trilateral dialogue with Japan and the Philippines, and that Marcos would have discussions at the Pentagon on joint maritime patrols.

“We will and have intensified our broader regional security discussions with the Philippines on all issues in the South China Sea and elsewhere,” the official said, referring to Manila’s disputed maritime claims with China and others. nations.

Separately, the official said no final decision has been made on whether Biden will stop in Papua New Guinea next month as part of an enhanced engagement with the Pacific Islands region, but Washington was “in active discussions, however, about our direct high Pacific level interactions with the Pacific.”

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