America’s VP here for talks on climate, security, trip to Palawan
United States Vice President Kamala Harris arrived in the Philippines on Sunday night and will launch what the US government described as “New Initiatives” covering climate action, energy security, and sustainable infrastructure to strengthen the alliance between the longtime treaty allies.
Harris attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders meeting in Bangkok, Thailand for US President Joe Biden and is set to hold bilateral talks with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio at Malacañang on Monday.
The US VP arrived in the country around 6:52 p.m. Sunday for her three-day visit.
According to the US Embassy, Harris was welcomed by US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson, US Embassy Philippines Deputy Chief of Mission Heather Variava, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez, Pasay City Mayor Imelda Calixto-Rubiano, Pasay Rep. Antonio Calixto, and Reynold Munsayac, spokesperson of Vice President Duterte-Carpio.
Harris will meet with President Marcos Jr. and Duterte-Carpio today and visit Palawan—the Philippine province closest to the territories in the disputed South China Sea—on Tuesday, November 22.
She would be the highest-ranking American official to visit the island adjacent to the contested Spratly Islands.
“The United States and the Philippines enjoy an alliance and partnership based on deep historical, economic, and cultural ties, and our shared democratic values. The United States and the Philippines stand together as friends, partners, and allies,” said the statement released by the US Embassy in the Philippines Information Office.
“Now and always, the US commitment to the defense of the Philippines is ironclad, and we are committed to strengthening our economic and investment relationship,” it added.
Vice President Harris’s visit “reaffirms the bilateral alliance and will spur cooperation on a range of issues, including advancing clean energy, addressing the climate crisis, promoting inclusive growth and innovation, increasing access to quality education and health resources, combating trafficking in persons, facing common security challenges, supporting freedom of the seas, and deepening people-to-people ties,” it added.
Among the new initiatives Harris is expected to announce on behalf of the US is that the U.S Department of Energy, US Department of State, and the Philippine Department of Energy will establish an Energy Policy Dialogue.
“(This) is a high-level platform for the two nations to develop new forms of energy cooperation, including short and long-term energy planning, offshore wind development, and grid stability and power transmission,” the embassy statement said.
Under the “Energy Policy Dialogue,” Harris will announce that Manila and Washington are initiating negotiations on a civil nuclear cooperation agreement (“123 agreement”) to support expanded cooperation on zero-emission energy and nonproliferation priorities.
“Once in force, this agreement will provide the legal basis for US exports of nuclear equipment and material to the Philippines,” it said.
“The United States is committed to working with the Philippines to increase energy security and deploying advanced nuclear reactor technology as quickly as safety and security conditions permit to meet the Philippines’ dire baseload power needs.”
“Such a deployment would support both energy security and climate goals, as well as support workers and businesses in both countries,” the embassy stressed.
The US also vowed to support the development of a nickel and cobalt processing facility in the Philippines, which will expand the production of refined nickel and cobalt in the Philippines by 20,000 metric tons per year.
The project will advance the sustainable development of critical minerals essential to the technologies for the clean energy transition.
The US will also partner with the Philippines’ Energy Development Corporation (EDC) to develop a geothermal project in Mindanao that will expand access to clean energy, reduce emissions, diversify the Philippines’ energy mix, and bring down energy costs for consumers.
Under her so-called “Building the Project Pipeline,” Harris initiated the designation of an office of the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) in US Embassy in Manila to help US companies and financiers invest in the Philippine market, supporting the energy and infrastructure needs of the Philippines and the broader Indo-Pacific region.
“This office will ensure that USTDA’s current pipeline of bankable projects reaches financial close and that new project opportunities are identified in partnership with the Asian Development Bank, US development finance institutions, private banks, and other country partners in the region,” it said.
“Partnering more strategically with regional financiers will ensure high-quality infrastructure projects are financed and implemented using US technology and expertise, creating mutual benefit among the Philippines, the United States, and the broader Indo-Pacific Region,” it stated.
Harris will also launch the “Indo-Pacific Smart and Secure Ports Development” where the United States will help build partner capacity to identify and mitigate cybersecurity risks in critical seaport infrastructure.
It will also promote the use of trusted vendors for the installation and maintenance of digital and automated port infrastructure, as ports modernize and become “smarter” and “greener.”
To enhance existing defense cooperation between the two countries, the US has allocated over $82 million towards the implementation of the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which is anchored on the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement.
These laws provide a legal basis for Philippine and American service members to undertake security cooperation exercises, pursue joint and combined military training activities, and rapidly respond to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief effort from agreed locations in the Philippines, on a rotational basis.
EDCA sites have also been used by US and Philippine forces during Kamandag and Balikatan military exercises.
The $82 million investment, and forthcoming additional allotment, will complete 21 projects, enabling the US and the Philippines to build lasting security infrastructure to promote long-term modernization, build a credible mutual defense posture, maintain humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities, and enhance the strength of the alliance.
New EDCA locations have also been identified to enable the US to continue to work together towards achieving the agreed objectives under EDCA.
“The United States has awarded the vast majority of contracts supporting these projects to Philippine companies, generating economic growth in local Philippine communities and building lasting friendships between the United States and the Philippines,” the US Embassy said.
In the area of food security, the US Department of Agriculture, with participation from USAID and the US Department of State, will establish a food security dialogue with its Philippine counterparts.
This dialogue will enable the two nations to collaborate to create resilient food systems and discuss best practices for agricultural innovation and sustainability.
The US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) will issue a $20 million loan to enable Agri Exim Global Philippines, Inc., a local processor of organic coconuts into derivative products, to grow its processing facilities in the Philippines, helping thousands of local farmers get organic certification and connect to global supply chains and customers.
The US government will also help the Philippine government develop the country’s digital economy by investing in the expansion of access to reliable and secured 5G networks.
“The United States intends to partner with Philippine telecom operator NOW Telecom for the deployment of 5G technologies in the Philippines. These efforts will provide faster and more reliable digital services and increased broadband internet access for Filipinos countrywide,” the embassy revealed.
The US government will help in the launching of satellite broadband service in the country, with the USAID supporting the launch of the first Low Earth Orbit Satellite Broadband Service in Southeast Asia, in partnership with SpaceX Starlink, in the Philippines.
“Satellite broadband service will provide reliable and affordable internet access to marginalized populations throughout the Philippines, thereby improving access to education, professional training, and opportunity,” the statement emphasized.
The USAID will launch a new Strengthening Private Enterprises for the Digital Economy (SPEED) award, a 5-year project that seeks to expand the participation of Philippine small and medium enterprises in the country’s emerging e-commerce ecosystem, the embassy statement said.
“The SPEED launch will include the nationwide launch of the Philippine eCommerce Alliance that will signal an industry-wide commitment to accelerating the rise of the Philippine digital economy. This program will promote the use of digital technologies to accelerate competitiveness, drive innovation, fuel job opportunities, and enhance the market reach of enterprises,” it said.
The USAID also plans to support the new Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Development Alliance. Leveraging $5.3 million in private sector contributions from seven Philippine companies, this public-private partnership will work with the government, industry, and academia to create a highly skilled and adaptive workforce that meets the evolving requirements of the high-tech manufacturing sector.
In the area of human rights and health security, the US government vowed to support the three-year UN Joint Programme for Human Rights (UNJP), a critical initiative for promoting human rights in the Philippines.
The US financial contribution to the UNJP underscores our commitment to support the protection of human rights in the Philippines and enhancing the ability of the Philippines to fulfill its international human rights obligations and commitments.
“Building on the United States’ more than $46 million in assistance for the Philippines’ response to COVID-19 and our donation of 33.6 million safe and effective COVID vaccines, the United States intends to invest $5 million to further accelerate vaccine rollout through the Global VAX initiative,” the US embassy statement said.
“The United States will also invest $8 million, subject to the availability of funds, to strengthen our global health security partnership with the Philippine health system, which will help prevent avoidable outbreaks, detect health threats early, and respond rapidly and effectively when outbreaks occur.”
In addition, the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) have established a new country office in the Philippines. “These efforts reflect the United States’ prioritization of the US-Philippines health partnership under the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA),” it added.