November 22, 2022
MANILA — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and visiting US Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday hailed the “strong” and “enduring” ties between the Philippines and the United States amid global headwinds.
“Your visit is a very strong symbol that these relationships remain strong, that these relationships remain important as indeed they do. I have said many times, I do not see a future for the Philippines that does not include the United States,” Marcos told Harris during her courtesy call in Malacañang.
In their tete-a-tete, the early part of which was aired on state television, Harris described the Philippine-US relationship as “a long and enduring one” and spoke about “so many opportunities for us to continue to strengthen our relationship” under Marcos’ leadership.
Harris cited, among others, “mutual concerns” about regional security, which she said was one basis of bilateral ties between the two nations.
“We are both proud members of the Indo-Pacific [region]. And in particular, as it relates to the Philippines, I will say that we must reiterate always that we stand with you in defense of international rules and norms as it relates to the South China Sea,” she said.
Harris alluded to the general terms of the 1951 Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), saying “an armed attack on the Philippines armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the South China Sea would invoke US mutual defense commitments.”
“And that is an unwavering commitment that we have to the Philippines,” she said.
Another basis of bilateral relations, the American vice president added, was mutual commitments to international rules and norms.
“Upholding those international rules and norms in all of the ways that we know allow for, again, prosperity and security for our respective nations in the region,” she said.
“So again, I will reiterate that the alliance between the United States and the Philippines is a strong and enduring one, and only under your leadership continues to be strengthened. And we look forward to working with you on many of these issues,” she said.
The president, for his part, described the Philippine-US relations as “something that both our countries have really come to depend upon,” and reiterated his desire to strengthen and at the same time evolve the ties.
“[W]ith more upheavals that we are seeing, not only in the region, but especially in the region, this partnership becomes even more important. The situation is rapidly changing. We must evolve to be properly responsive to that situation. And so that is why it is very important that we continue to progress, that we continue to strengthen, as we redefine those relationships,” he said.
Marcos noted that bilateral ties have gone through “different phases of relationship” and since the postwar era “has just been strengthened in every way: in the economic sense, in the political sense, [and] defense security.”
“You cannot think of an area where we have not cooperated, collaborated, and have had good results for both our countries,” he said.
Harris said she intended to talk with the president about opportunities presented by mutual concerns such as the climate crisis “and what we might do in terms of investments and renewable energy and thinking about clean power and the industries that will come about because of that commitment.”
A fact sheet on Harris’ visit to the Philippines released by the White House on Sunday said that the United States and the Philippines were initiating negotiations on a civil nuclear cooperation agreement. Once in force, this will provide the legal basis for US exports of nuclear equipment and material to the Philippines.
Harris was accompanied in the Palace by her husband, second gentleman Douglas Emhoff, and US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson.
She arrived in the Philippines on Sunday night, the first visit in five years by a high-ranking US official since former President Donald Trump visited the country for the 2017 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit.
Vice President Sara Duterte, Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, House Speaker Martin Romualdez, Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez, and other government officials were also present at the courtesy call and tete-a-tete.
Mr. Marcos, touching on the US official’s visit to Palawan province today, jestingly told Harris: “I’m sure you’re just going to the resorts and the beaches,” to which she replied, “that is not the life I’ve chosen these days.”
In Congress, two of former President Rodrigo Duterte’s allies in the Senate on Monday welcomed the US official’s visit, saying this could signal that the United States was showing its true commitment to defend the Philippines in any conflict in the West Philippine Sea.
Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, however, called on the US government to fully commit to the MDT with the Philippines.
“That (Harris visit) is an indicator that they are really here for us because otherwise, they could just be ignoring us. But the relationship should be mutual and not one-sided,” he said.
Sen. Christopher Go said visiting dignitaries from allied countries were welcome, especially if these would usher in more support for the Philippines such as the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
In the House of Representatives, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez noted that the visit of Harris sent a clear signal to China that the Philippines has US support in the South China Sea dispute.
However, Gabriela women’s party list said that Harris’ visit to Palawan might be seen as a provocation, as it slammed the package of “dangerous deals” that the US vice president brought with her.
The group cited the civil nuclear cooperation agreement, which House deputy minority leader and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro also strongly opposed, saying that modular or microreactor nuclear power plants were still in the experimental stage.