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Monday, June 24, 2024

High-ranking US State Department official to visit PH this week

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US Department of State Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources Richard Verma will visit China and the Philippines from May 6 to 10, according to US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter) on Sunday, Carlson announced the deputy secretary’s impending visit to the two Indo-Pacific countries by reposting an advisory from the State Department’s Office of the Spokesperson.

The advisory stated that Verma will be in the Philippines to meet with senior government officials. The agenda is “to build on the progress” made during the bilateral, trilateral, and ministerial-level meetings held between Manila and Washington just last month.

It cited the earlier meeting between President Marcos and US President Joe Biden, as well as the annual US-Philippines Bilateral Strategic Dialogue last April 22 to 23.

The advisory also said that Verma’s visit hopes to build on the momentum of the historic Japan-Philippines-US Trilateral Leaders’ Summit on April 11 and the US-Philippines 3+3 Ministerial on April 12.

The US official will also participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial and host a dinner with Philippine US Exchange Program alumni.

Meanwhile, Verma will also be in mainland China to visit the US Embassy in Beijing and the US Consulates General in Shenyang, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.

This is to “thank personnel and ensure that their teams have the right equipment and facilities to most effectively serve US interests.”

Aside from his visit to the US posts there, Verma will also hold meetings with members of the US business community in Shanghai “to advocate for a level playing field for US workers and firms operating in China.”

Verma’s visit to the two countries will come amid the escalating tensions between the Philippines and China, with Manila heavily depending on the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with Washington that states the activation of US’ defense in case of an armed attack on Philippine territory and waters.

China’s aggressive actions in the West Philippine Sea, including in exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of the Philippines, have caused concern in the international community as most countries in the Indo-Pacific region and western nations calling on the Asian economic powerhouse to heed and follow international laws, rules, and regulations.

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