By CLAIRE MORALES TRUE and ALFRED GABOT
Managing Editor and Editor in Chief
WASHINGTON D.C. — Meeting Philippine President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. at the White House for the first time, United States President Joe Biden reaffirmed his country’s “ironclad” commitment to defend the Philippines under the two nations’ defense treaty.
“The United States remains ironclad in our commitment to the defense of the Philippines, including the South China Sea,” Biden stressed in his opening remarks during his bilateral talks with the Philippine leader on May 1 (US time). (See related stories, Joint Biden-Marcos statement inside)
After their expanded talks with their officials, Biden and Marcos issued a joint statement that reiterated that any armed attack on the Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the Pacific would invoke the US mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.
“Our countries not only share strong partnership. We share deep friendship, one that has been enriched by millions of Filipino-Americans and communities all across the United States,” he said.
In the joint statement, both leaders said this “will strengthen Philippine security and support the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ modernization goals, while driving US investment to local communities across the Philippines and improving our shared ability to rapidly deliver humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.” Both leaders underscored their “unwavering commitment” to freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, as well as the importance of respecting the sovereign rights of states within their exclusive economic zones consistent with international law.
“The leaders support the right and ability of Filipino fisherfolk to pursue their traditional livelihoods. The leaders note the ruling of the 2016 arbitral tribunal, constituted pursuant to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” the statement added.
They also affirmed the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, which they described as an “indispensable element of global security and prosperity.”
Marcos, who is on a working state visit from May 1 to 5, also met Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US business leaders and the Filipino community and made history later as the first foreign head of state to be given full honors at the Pentagon under the administration of President Biden.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin welcomed Marcos at the Pentagon with full honors.
The US Department t of Defense Protocol office said the full honors given to President Marcos was the first given to a foreign head of state or government under the Biden administration.
“So, make no mistake Mr. President, we will always have your back in the South China Sea or elsewhere in the region,” he said.
In his opening remarks during his meeting with President Biden, President Marcos Jr. said the Philippines and the United States need to seek ways to strengthen the alliance and partnership of both countries.
Marcos Jr. and Biden renewed their commitment to elevate Manila and Washington’s alliance during their bilateral meeting in Washington.
Marcos noted with concern the escalating tensions in the Asia-Pacific and cited US’ assistance in maintaining peace and contribution to the stability and development of the region.
Marcos raised the need to “find ways to strengthen our alliances and partnership in the face of the new economy that we are facing post-pandemic.”
“Beyond that, there are also issues, geopolitical issues that make the region… the Philippines is, possibly, arguably the most complicated geopolitical situation in the world right now,” Marcos 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,” he said.
Marcos Jr. also emphasized that ties between Manila and Washington can help promote peace in the region and across the globe. (Alfred Gabotemail@example.com; Claire Morales Truefirstname.lastname@example.org)