MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on Sunday that his planned meeting with US President Joe Biden is critical to furthering his country’s national interests and strengthening the “very important alliance” between Manila and Washington.
Marcos left Manila on Sunday for the first state visit to Washington by a Philippine leader in nearly a decade, following a series of high-level engagements in the previous year, including a meeting with Biden on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September and a visit to the Philippines by US Vice President Kamala Harris in November.
“My visit to the United States, particularly my meeting with President Joe Biden, is critical to advancing our national interests and strengthening that very important alliance,” Marcos stated.
His visit coincides with rising geopolitical tensions over self-ruled Taiwan and concerns over China’s behavior in the disputed South China Sea. It also takes place against the backdrop of strengthening Philippine-US defense ties, as seen by the largest-ever joint military drills in April and a recent extension of US access to Philippine facilities.
Marcos emphasized his commitment to strengthening Philippine-US ties “in a wide range of areas that not only address concerns of our times, but also those that are critical to advancing our core interests,” listing food security, climate change, cybersecurity, and economic resilience as examples.
The Philippines would reiterate its “commitment to fostering our long-standing alliances as an instrument of peace and as a catalyst of development in the Asia Pacific region,” Marcos said, while also pushing “for greater economic engagement” with the US.
Although the Filipino leader has sought good relations with both China and the United States, ties with the latter are only now being restored after years of distance under former President Rodrigo Duterte, who distanced Manila from Washington in favor of Beijing.
“He’s taking time off, and I think… the optics of that are just massive, especially given the previous administration,” Stephen Cutler, former FBI legal attache in Manila, told Arab News. “So, I think this is going to be good.”
Cutler added that Marcos’ visit provides an opportunity to discuss matters other than defense in Philippine-US relations.
“The Philippines’ relationship with the United States and the issues it faces extend far beyond military security.”
“One of the things the president’s visit will allow him to do is establish some really good, I hope, relationships with US businesses that have the ability to add jobs in that field here in the Philippines,” he added.
According to national surveys, job creation is one of the top priorities for Filipinos.
The minority leader of the Philippine House of Representatives, Marcelino Libanan, stated, “We are all counting on the president’s trip to pave the way for additional American direct investment inflows that we need to support our economic recovery and generate new employment.”