Home / Editorial / VP Kamala Harris’ productive visit strengthens PH-US bilateral relations

VP Kamala Harris’ productive visit strengthens PH-US bilateral relations

Vice President Kamala Harris delivered a clear message to President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. when she visited Malacañang Palace: “We stand with you in defense of international rules and norms. As it relates to the South China Sea, an armed attack on the Philippines’ armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the South China Sea would invoke US mutual defense commitments, and that is an unwavering commitment that we have to the Philippines.”

She also went to Palawan, the Philippine province closest to the South China Sea. While aboard a Philippine Navy vessel, BRP Teresa Magbanua, she reaffirmed the United States’ advocacy on the importance of sovereignty, territorial integrity and freedom of navigation. These vital precepts in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea were cited in the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (also known as the Arbitral Tribunal) that upheld the Philippines’ position with regard to its territorial claims in the area.

It will be recalled that after the meeting between President Marcos and US President Joe Biden in New York last September, the White House said in a statement: “The leaders reflected on the importance of the US-Philippines alliance. President Biden reaffirmed the United States’ ironclad commitment to the defense of the Philippines.”

“Ironclad commitment” was also the term used in 2014 by former President Barack Obama with reference to setting into motion the US’ mutual defense agreement with the Philippines in case of an attack on the Philippines or on its naval assets, arising from tensions in the South China Sea.

During his watch, President Donald Trump and his defense secretary Mike Pompeo forcefully declared: “The People’s Republic of China (PRC) cannot lawfully assert a maritime claim – including any Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) claims derived from Scarborough Reef and the Spratly Islands – vis-a-vis the Philippines in areas that the Tribunal found to be in the Philippines’ EEZ or on its continental shelf.”

Included in Vice President Harris’ Manila agenda was strengthening the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) in terms of identifying additional sites for basing US troops engaged in joint military exercises as well as major disaster relief and humanitarian assistance activities.

Vice President Harris also conveyed the US’ readiness to cooperate with the Philippines’ initiatives to promote energy security by tapping into nuclear power options. She observed that the two countries’ “multi-faceted” bilateral relations have expanded in scope within the context of Indo-Pacific economic prosperity. While the Philippines is keen on tapping into opportunities for expanded trade and investments in the post-pandemic era, it continues to be hobbled by the destructive impact of global warming and climate change.

Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, who served as President Biden’s official emissary during the Marcos inaugural last June, joined Vice President Harris in her Manila visit. In a Healthy and Safe Back to School event hosted by USAID at the Gregoria De Jesus Elementary School in Caloocan City, he announced that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) will be providing $5 million to accelerate the country’s vaccine rollout.

Philippine-American diplomatic relations have been strengthened considerably by Vice President Harris’ highly productive working visit.

Credit belongs to : www.mb.com.ph

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