Filipinos hope for change in relations with US under Biden
MANILA, Philippines — While Filipino officials did not expect any major changes in the country’s relations with the United States with the election of former US Vice President Joe Biden, many hope there will be substantial departures from the policies pursued by incumbent President Donald Trump.
“A Biden presidency will very likely normalize and stabilize economic, including trade and investment, and diplomatic relations with the world, including the Philippines,” economist Ernesto Pernia told the Inquirer on Sunday.
Biden won the election after he tallied 279 Electoral College votes over 214 votes for Trump.
Trump, however, is challenging the outcome in the courts.
“Though the Republican philosophy used to be more liberal on trade, this was not the case with Trump,” added Pernia, former chief of the National Economic and Development Authority.
The Inquirer sought comments on Biden’s victory from President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic team, but Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the group would instead defer to Duterte and the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, on the other hand, said he did not expect any immediate change in the country’s relations with the United States, but expressed confidence that Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. would guard Philippine interests in Washington.
Congressmen expressed what they hoped to change in the policies advocated by Trump during his term, particularly the trade war with China and the migration of Filipino workers.
Albay Rep. Joey Salceda said a “reinvigorated US presence in Southeast Asia under a more global-looking Biden presidency is likely to make China more inclined to be on the Philippines’ good side on West Philippine Sea issues, lest we pivot closer to the US.”
Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel also hoped the United States would again be “more welcoming” to foreigners, including migrant Filipino workers.
Under the Trump administration, the US Department of Homeland Security imposed a one-year ban on the issuance of nonimmigrant working visas (H-2A and H-2B) to Filipinos from Jan. 19, 2019 to Jan. 18, 2020, citing overstaying and human trafficking concerns.
Shortly before the ban expired, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services released on Jan. 16, 2020, a new list of countries whose nationals are eligible to receive H-2A and H-2B visas in 2020, but the Philippines was excluded.
So far, Biden has not set any policy direction, except on climate change.
“Biden not only acknowledges the science which Trump doesn’t, but he has been personally involved in climate change issues for many, many years,” said environmental lawyer Antonio La Viña, who heads the Manila Observatory of the Ateneo de Manila University.
On Nov. 4, when the United States’ departure from the Paris climate agreement took effect, Biden said he would rejoin the Paris Agreement, which seeks to put a cap on the rise in the world’s temperatures.
But rejoining the Paris Agreement is only the first step in forwarding genuine climate solutions, said Beatrice Tulagan, Asia regional organizer for international environment group 350.org.
“Their leadership is contingent on how progressive and effective their actual national targets and domestic policies are,” she said in an interview.
Tulagan said decades’ worth of inaction from the major carbon emitters like the United States had exacerbated climate impacts, such as the recent Typhoon “Rolly,” which pummeled the Bicol region.
—With reports from Jerome Aning, Krixia Subingsubing, DJ Yap, Nestor Corrales and Jhesset Enano
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