United States President Joe Biden has given a clear and reassuring message to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. the US stays “ironclad” in its commitment to the defense of the Philippines, including the South China Sea, and they will continue supporting the Philippines’ military modernization.
Biden recognized that “Our countries not only share strong partnership. We share deep friendship, one that has been enriched by millions of Filipino-Americans and the communities all across the United States.”
A fact that underlines the deep socio-economic dimensions between Americans and Filipinos.
President Marcos Jr. said, “And so it is only natural that — for the Philippines to look to its sole treaty partner in the world, to strengthen and to redefine the relationship that we have and the roles that we play in the face of these tensions that we see now around the South China Sea and the Asia-Pacific and Indo-Pacific region.”
These strong statements made during the recently concluded bilateral meeting between the two heads of state enunciates the Philippine-US alliance as the dynamics of geopolitical tensions in the Indo-Pacific has become increasingly complex and multipolar.
Media headlines have related the President’s working visit to the US to strengthening defense cooperation amidst the increasing Chinese harassments in our maritime territories.
Actually, the May 1 bilateral meeting already builds on earlier talks during the United Nations General Assembly in September 2022.
There were also meetings with US Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III during their official visits to Manila.
The recently concluded live-fire Balikatan war games, the largest military exercise ever between US and Philippines troops, showcased a glimpse of the kind of fire power and interoperability that have been established should circumstances force the activation of military interventions.
The addition of four more sites Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) is strategically significant and aligns to the Mutual Defense Treaty.
Further deepening and expanding the defense cooperation is the adoption of Bilateral Defense Guidelines to ensure interoperability of forces on land, sea, air, and even cyberspace.
In last week’s forum on Modernizing Philippine Defense Capabilities and Elevating Security Partnerships hosted by the Stratbase ADR Institute, its president Prof. Victor Andres “Dindo” Manhit said, “With various elements attempting to tear down the rules-based international order, particularly in the West Philippine Sea, the Marcos Jr administration must continue to engage with like-minded partners such as the United States, Japan, and Australia, among others, to secure Philippine waters and contribute to the security of the region.
“The current administration must implement a responsive and strategic national security policy that enhances the capacities of our military and protects the livelihood of our fisherfolk.”
Mr. Brett Blackshaw, Political Counselor of the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines said, “On the US-PH alliance, our focus on maritime cooperation is on ensuring the Philippines has a credible deterrent to uphold and defend its sovereign rights.
“The past shows us appeasement does not work. It is important to show confidence and to develop the capabilities to stand up for lawful rights. And that is why having allies and friends matters so much.”
Maintaining peace and security, or looking at it from the dark side, ambitions to expand a state’s sphere of influence, is always motivated by economic interests.
Whether it is seeing an opportunity to become the dominant power, or in our case struggling to build a competitive position we can sustain – strengthening the economy is the thing.
This is an element of the Biden-Marcos Jr. bilateral meeting that should get more attention as this presents a potential with long-term economic benefits that will benefit Filipinos.
To this, Biden announced he is sending the Presidential Trade and Investment Mission to the Philippines, “first of its kind” aimed to boost the investments of American firms in the country with interest in the innovation economy, clean energy, and food security.”
The US and Philippines will also be co-hosting the 2024 Info-Pacific Business Forum here in Manila.
It will be interesting how negotiations on the US-Philippine civil nuclear cooperation agreement will move forward.
Cooperation in the development of renewable energy such as solar, wind, and geothermal energy is also on the agenda.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, knowledge sharing, and other initiatives are also on the table.
The President met with companies in the maritime, pharmaceutical, nuclear and solar energy, BPO, semi-conductor, and healthcare. Approximately $1.3 billion in investment pledges will hopefully generate about 7,000 jobs.
Our geographic location puts us in the middle of these continuing geopolitical disruptions but is a situation we can effectively address by remaining steadfast and aligning with like-minded states in sustaining the rules-based international order by collectively deterring a destructive confrontation that nobody really wants.