Filipinos will be watching closely and listening intently to available echoes from discussions in Malacañang between President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and US Vice President Kamala Harris, who arrives in Manila tomorrow for a two-day swing before flying back home.
The 58-year-old Harris, the highest ranking official from the Biden administration to visit the country, will also have talks with Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio before she goes to Palawan on Tuesday on the edge of disputed isles in the South China Sea.
The South China Sea, which contains massive oil and gas deposits, is the stage for $5 trillion in ship-borne trade each year but also a flash point for Chinese and US tensions around naval operations.
The talks between President Marcos, 65, and Vice President Harris may focus on the long-standing Philippines and US security alliance, as well as efforts to strengthen economic ties.
In line with these discussions, Harris is expected to reaffirm Washington’s defense commitments to Manila and underscore ties between the two countries in maintaining peace in the South China Sea.
On the economic front, Harris’ visit will include the announcement of new initiatives on accelerating the Philippines’ transition to clean energy and strengthening its digital economy, both of which have been identified as priority areas by the Marcos administration.
Harris’ visit immediately follows her trip to Thailand where she attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference Summit, which underlines what one senior US administration official has said that the Bangkok and Manila swing is expected to paint Washington as a “better partner” for countries in the region.
We see her visit as a testament to, a confirmation, as it were, of the enduring alliance and strategic partnership between Manila and Washington.
Senator Jinggoy Estrada hinself has said “We can also view such as being consistent with the November 2021 Joint Vision Statement of the two countries which expressed resolve to sustain cooperation across key areas of concern through high-level visits and dialogues.”
We agree with his observation that the visit clearly manifests Washington’s commitment to stand with the Manila government or demonstrate the former’s support and solidarity for the rule of law and maritime law.
Manila has been a defense ally of Washington, but under the previous administration the former avoided criticizing Beijing while eyeing Chinese investment.
Manila announced earlier that Washington would spend US$66.5 million to start building training and warehouse facilities at three of its military bases in the Philippines under a 2014 joint security deal.