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BIDEN REAFFIRMS U.S. VOW TO DEFEND PHILIPPINES, warns China vs ‘provocative’ conduct, boosts ties with Manila, Marcos

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. 

In their joint statement, Biden and Marcos also emphasized their commitment to freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, as they said they believe in the significance of respecting the sovereign rights of states within their exclusive economic zones consistent with international law. 
Biden also assured the US will continue to support the modernization of the Philippine military. 
 

“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. 

“We’re tackling climate change, we’re accelerating our countries’ chances… and we’re standing up for our shared democratic values and workers’ rights… and together we’re deepening our economic cooperation,” he also told Marcos. 
Marcos and Biden welcomed the identification of new sites under the US-Philippines Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). 
 

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.” 

Both Biden and Marcos conveyed their support for Ukraine in its sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, “noting that the conflict (with Russia) has adversely affected food and energy security in the Indo-Pacific.” 

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. 

In their meeting after the honors, Austin expressed his country’s commitment to the defense of the Philippines. “President (Joseph) Biden has made clear our commitment to the defense of the Philippines is ironclad. And let me tell you once again that our Mutual Defense Treaty applies to armed attacks on our armed forces, coast guard vessels, public vessels, or aircraft in the Pacific including anywhere in the South China Sea,” Lloyd told Marcos. 

“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 remarks at the Pentagon, Marcos said the “call of the times… is asking for us to meet the new challenges perhaps we have not faced before.” 
 
“That’s why it is very important that it is continuing… the exchanges that we have started,” Marcos said. “I look to a very bright future between the Philippines and the United States – a future that is founded on the long experience and as you say, friendship and familial relationship because the people-to-people exchanges between our two countries have been ongoing at every level.” 
The visit of Marcos at the Pentagon comes in the wake of the Philippines and the US reaffirming their security alliance amid tensions in the South China Sea and the Asia-Pacific region. 

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 Gabot/alfredgabot@aol.com; Claire Morales True/cmtpr1962@yahoo.com.ph)