US Vice President Kamala Harris’ recent four-day official visit to the Philippines underscores the importance Washington attaches to our bilateral relations.
At the same time, it emphasizes the Marcos administration’s commitment to strengthening longstanding ties based on shared values and adherence to democratic principles amid changing geopolitical realities in this part of the world.
The US Vice President’s meeting with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to discuss economic ties and security cooperation was timely.
The Philippines wants to speed up economic recovery after nearly three years of lockdowns and mobility restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic that caused factory and commercial enterprise closures and massive job losses.
The US government can facilitate two-way trade and encourage US corporations to invest in various economic sectors in the Philippines.
The Philippines also needs to modernize its military as part of building a credible defense posture due to tensions in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait.
The US can extend its help in this regard not only through arms sales, but also by reaffirming its strong commitments to the country under the Mutual Defense Agreement (MDT), the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
At the same time, our independent foreign policy clearly stipulated in the Constitution allows us to strengthen our ties with our traditional ally, the United States, without antagonizing our next-door neighbor, China, with whom we have our own differences over South China. Sea problem.
China has built artificial islands housing military installations along the vital seaway, parts of which are also claimed by the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.
The United States supports the decision of the Permanent Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague favoring our maritime claims in our Exclusive Economic Zone under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
We welcome US support for our position and emphasize that the rule of law must prevail over territorial claims in the South China Sea by the Philippines and other neighboring countries.
Another flash point is Taiwan, which China says is a renegade province that should be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary, especially if it declares its independence. While we support the one-China policy, we also maintain strong trade relations and de facto diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
We need to enhance security cooperation with the United States to protect our own national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and national interest while keeping our bilateral ties with China equally strong.
Who says we can’t have our cake and eat it too?