BIDEN AFFIRMS U.S. DEFENSE OF PHL UNDER TREATY; Marcos sees closer ties, more investment from U.S. in first visit

US PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN meets Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting. A White House visit is being eyed for June 2023.

By ALFRED GABOT, Editor in Chief

NEW YORK/MANILA – With assurance from United States President Joseph Biden Jr. of an “iron clad” policy to defend the Philippines in case of outside aggression in keeping with 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty of the two countries, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said he is looking forward to stepped up partnership with America as well as more investments that will benefit the Filipinos and the country.

Marcos reported on his “productive” first U.S. visit upon his arrival and in other events that followed, including the Cabinet meeting, pointing out that his meeting with President Biden, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and some world leaders like Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and French President Emmanuel Macron as well as American businessmen successfully advanced the country’s interests on the global stage.

In their meeting on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, Biden and Marcos underscored their support for freedom of navigation and overflight and the peaceful resolution of disputes in South China Sea and West Philippine Sea.

Based on a White House statement, Biden and Marcos also discussed opportunities to expand bilateral cooperation on a wide range of issues, including energy and food security, climate action, and infrastructure, affirming that Philippine-US remain strong and enduring.

“We in the Philippine delegation are one in our assessment that the work done in this trip serves as a good start for opportunities identified to be made into programs and projects to benefit the Philippines and our countrymen,” Marcos said in Manila later..

Among the highlights of the President’s visit to the US includes attending and addressing the 77th United Nations General Assembly and meeting world leaders and the American business community.

At the UN, the President delivered the Philippines’ national statement, articulating the country’s role in working with the global body to build a brighter future and a just and safer world, underscoring efforts on climate change and global issues such as rising food prices, rapid technological change, the peaceful resolution of international disputes, migrants’ protection, and ending all forms of prejudice, especially what is known as Asian hate that includes Filipinos.

The President also shared the Philippines’ experience in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) peace process, agricultural rejuvenation, and the promotion of human rights through the UN Joint Program on Human Rights.

He reiterated the Philippines’ belief in the primacy of the rule of law, as embodied by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS even as he called for peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea region.

Marcos and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also reaffirmed the partnership between the Philippines and the UN.

He also had meetings with a number of business leaders from different US companies, who committed to being a part of the Philippines’ development and economic growth.

“Together, we will be working on addressing some of our key economic challenges, particularly once again climate change, food security, energy security, to name but a few,” he said.

The President also delivered a keynote address at the New York Stock Exchange and at the Philippine Economic Briefing, which drew institutional investors, senior corporate executives, fund managers and entrepreneurs.

At the same time, his delegation hosted four CEO roundtable discussions dealing with IT-BPM, digital infrastructure, global brands, particularly in garments and apparel, and industry and infrastructure.

Before to returning to Manila after the week-long working visit, Marcos had a roundtable discussion with a select group of leaders of the US business community on the state of today’s global and regional economy.

While in the US, the President also met the Filipino community there and thanked them for their work and contributions to the Philippines and the US, acknowledging that 40 percent of remittances by overseas Filipinos come from America. He also cited the Filipino frontliners like doctors and nurses for helping out the United States in times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marcos expressed his respect and admiration for their commitment to the future and welfare of their families in the Philippines and shared with them the administration’s priorities aimed at improving the lives of Filipinos.
Addressing the Asia Society members, Marcos said the Philippines’ territorial disputes with China and other littoral states in the South China Sea (SCS) can be addressed through diplomatic negotiations.

Marcos emphasized his call for unity and maintained that the Philippines will continue to be a “friend to all [and] an enemy to none.”

“On our part, we will continue to work with China and other claimant states with the end in view of resolving the issues involving the West Philippine Sea through diplomacy and through dialogue,” said Marcos.

“As I clearly stated in my State of the Nation Address [on July 25], I will not preside over any process that will abandon even a square inch of territory of the Republic of the Philippines to any foreign power,” Marcos said.

The Philippines will remain a “good neighbor” to all nations and the country seeks collaboration that will bring “mutually beneficial outcomes”, the President said. “We will continue to be a good neighbor — always finding ways to collaborate with the end goal of mutually beneficial outcomes. If we agree, we will cooperate and we will work together. And, if we differ, we will negotiate until we reach an agreement,” he added. “I spoke about the importance of dialogue and solidarity in the face of the many challenges and threats that we now have to deal with. This means exerting every possible effort to transcend our differences and commit to end conflict,” Marcos told the audience.

China, the Philippines, and several other littoral states have overlapping claims in the South China Sea where Beijing claims around 80 percent of the busy waterway.
The Philippines on July 12, 2016, won its petition filed before the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) after the arbitral tribunal invalidated China’s claim of supposed historic rights over almost the entire SCS.

China, however, has ignored the PCA ruling.

Marcos said the Philippines’ current position is that it has “no territorial conflict with China,” since what China is claiming “belongs to the Philippines.”

He assured his fellow Filipinos that he would not give up even a square inch of the Philippine territory.
The Philippine economy will go beyond its pre-pandemic growth, Marcos told the Asia Society, as he confidently talked about progress amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

Marcos said his administration has laid out measures that will help reinvigorate the economy.

“We don’t want to just catch up. We want to go beyond that. We have no interest in going back to pre-pandemic levels. What we are interested in is to flourish further and to position the Philippines in such a way that we can take full advantage of the new economies and the new industries that have come to light,” Marcos said in his speech.

Sustained cooperation and collaboration with the private sector and other governments would lead to the realization of his administration’s bid to make the Philippines a new and transformed country, the President said.

He said the Philippines is a “viable and smart” investment destination, given its macroeconomic fundamentals, enabling policies, and human capital.

“They recognize the Philippines, our country, for its business-friendly policies, a very competent workforce, and a network of economic zones,” he said. “These are interesting times and there are many things to accomplish. The far-reaching ill-effects of the pandemic compel us to reinvigorate our economies in a spirit of sustained cooperation and collaboration.”

Marcos noted that the Philippine economy expanded by 5.7 percent in 2021 and 7.8 percent in the first half of 2021 because of government spending, household consumption, and investments reinforced by consumer and business confidence.

He also cited “investor-friendly” laws that seek to “leverage game-changing reforms.”

Marcos told the group about the “young, educated, hardworking, and English-speaking” Philippine workforce that is globally competitive.