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Boosting ties, Biden sending top presidential trade, investment mission to PHL

By CLAIRE MORALES TRUE, Managing Editor

WASHINGTON D.C. – In a big boost to the resurgent friendly ties with the Philippines, US President Joseph Biden is sending a “first of its kind” presidential trade and investment mission to the Philippines.

Biden made the announcement following his bilateral meeting with President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. at the White House in Washington D.C.

The US leader noted Manila and Washington’s “strong partnership” and “deep friendship, one that has been enriched by millions of Filipino-Americans and the communities all across the United States.”

Biden also committed to step up America’s support in a wide range of issues, including climate change mitigation and economy.

“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,” Biden told Marcos.

Marcos thanked Biden for America’s assistance and sought to strengthen “alliances and partnership in the face of the new economy that we are facing post-pandemic.”

Monday’s Oval Office meeting also included discussions on security, education, and other initiatives as part of Marcos’ five-day official visit to Washington.

Philippine cabinet officials with their US counterparts also held a meeting with Marcos and Biden in an expanded bilateral meeting in the White House.

Among the Philippine officials who attended the expanded bilateral meeting include National Security Adviser Eduardo Ano; Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr.; Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Antonia Yulo Loyzaga; Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo Pascual; Department of Information and Communications Technology Secretary Ivan John Uy; Justice Secretary Jesus Crisoin Remulla; Migrant Workers Department Secretary Maria Susana “Toots” Ople and Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo.

Marcos is also set to visit the Pentagon, meet Cabinet executives and business leaders during his stay in Washington.

Meanwhile, the Philippines and the United States (US) have agreed to enhance cooperation in agriculture in efforts to boost food security and efficiency, as well as research and development in the sector.

President  Marcos Jr. and US Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials led by Secretary Thomas Vilsack sealed the deal on setting up a ministerial team on agricultural cooperation during a meeting , according to the Presidential Communications Office.

In the meeting, Marcos also sought to bolster mutually beneficial agreements to strengthen agriculture research for development, as well as capacity-building initiatives specific to the advancement of biotechnology agenda in the country.

Marcos said he wanted to increase market access of Philippine agricultural products to the US.

The USDA, for its part, also looked forward to strengthened knowledge transfer between the US and the Philippines, as well as continued cooperation on agriculture innovation systems.

“(We’re) looking forward to an initiative where a number of your professors… will be coming to the United States, will be exposed to our own university system… so they in turn take it back to the Philippines,” a USDA official said.

Marcos pointed out that the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic has revealed the “weaknesses” of Philippine agriculture, stressing the need to strengthen it.

“As we had started to plan our way out of the pandemic economy, even the financial experts, we would talk about the economy, we would talk about the more strictly financial aspects of the development economy, we still keep coming back to agriculture and we cannot do all of the things that we would like to do for our economy if our agriculture is not — there are agricultural system — is not strengthened,” he said.

He also expressed hope that the upcoming Food Security Dialogue on May 5 will further boost cooperation on capacity-building and technology support as the country works together in building effective and efficient supply chains, export and value-chain development of agricultural commodities.

The president said the goal is to strengthen agricultural research and development, particularly on biotechnology centers, geospatial databases, climate-proof facilities and information services.

“This is an extremely important part of the transformation of our society and of our economy for the post-pandemic world,“ Marcos said. (Claire Morales True/cmtpr1962@yahoo.com.ph)