When President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. goes to the United States for his second working visit in less than a year, he will do so hoping to further strengthen longstanding bilateral ties between the two countries.
Mr. Marcos and US President Joe Biden met for the first time at the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York City in September last year.
That meeting produced an ironclad guarantee the US would come to the defense of the Philippines if attacked by a third party based on the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) they signed in 1951.
Their second meeting comes at a time when the two countries have already agreed on expanding the number of sites for the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) from five to nine.
The additional sites, three of them located in northern Luzon and another in Palawan province facing the South China Sea, have provoked an angry reaction from Beijing, which claims increased American military presence will undermine peace and stability in the region.
The visit also comes on the heels of the annual Balikatan joint military exercises between the Philippines and US troops, said to be the largest with the participation of no less than 17,000 soldiers—12,000 from the US and 5,000 from the Philippines—and 200 observers from Australia and Japan, two countries with keen interest in addressing the unstable security situation in the Indo-Pacific region.
The US needs the Philippines as a reliable defense partner amid brewing tensions in the Taiwan Strait as Beijing ramps up not just aggressive rhetoric but also actual military drills involving jet fighters and naval forces obviously designed to let self-ruled Taiwan that it would not be allowed to declare independence.
China has made no secret of its intention to reintegrate Taiwan, which it considers a renegade province, into the mainland, by force if necessary.
It’s not just the ongoing defense cooperation that’s on the agenda of the two leaders.
There’s also the economic partnership that needs to be revitalized with President Marcos expected to offer incentives to American investors to come to the Philippines and take part in infrastructure development, renewable energy and climate change initiatives, among others, as what he did during the first visit.
We have no doubt that prospects for reinforced Philippine-American ties are bright for as long as the two sides are able to discuss issues and concerns based on mutual trust and mutual benefit, and that ‘special relations’ forged over the decades based on shared interests and democratic principles have nowhere to go but become even better in the years ahead.