THE United States is set to reestablish a more robust partnership with the Philippines that cracked following the criticism by former US President Barack Obama of the Duterte administration’s bloody campaign against illegal drugs.
“It’s one of our very important and oldest friends and partners in the region, and we are looking forward to being able to furnish the relationship and restore those bonds of friendship,” US Acting Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton said during a press briefing at the White House Wednesday.
The United States’ reestablishment of a healthy relationship with the Philippines was discussed during a press briefing at the White House relating to the forthcoming visit of US State Department Secretary Rex Tillerson to Manila.
The US will be discussing with Philippine political and military leaders the ISIS threat to the Asean region, particularly in the Philippines given the messy security situation in Marawi City.
Tillerson is expected to arrive in Manila today to coincide with the opening of the Asean Regional Forum hosted by the Philippines, and where he is scheduled to participate.
He will also attend the East Asia Summit Ministerial, the US-Asean Ministerial and the Lower Mekong Initiative Ministerial.
Thornton said he was looking forward to his trip to Manila not just for multilateral diplomacy, “but there will be a chance to have a very good, robust bilateral program with the Philippines while we’re there on the margins of the ministerial meeting.”
It’s not clear, however, whether Tillerson will have a chance to meet with Duterte, and a Palace official said he had no information about it.
Said Thornton: “I think you can be sure that we will be raising all of the relevant issues that we have in the bilateral alliance relationship with the Philippines. We have a lot of things to talk about, obviously.
“But certainly, we will be talking about governance, about human rights issues and about how we can increase our economic and other kinds of people-to-people engagement with the Philippines.”
Thornton said the IS threats to the Philippines and its neighbors would definitely be discussed.
“The Philippines is right now grappling with a very difficult situation down in the Southern Island of Mindanao with the ISIS takeover of one of the cities down there,” Thornton said.