Marcos: US trip to pursue ‘economic engagement’
MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. left Manila on Sunday for his official visit to the United States, saying he will “push for greater economic engagement” during his four-day trip.
This was affirmed by a US official, who nevertheless also said that “security elements” will be tackled in Marcos’ scheduled meeting on Monday with US President Joe Biden.
In his departure speech at Villamor Air Base, the president said his visit “is an important one…because [it is] part our efforts to further reinforce our already strong bonds with the United States by bringing our alliance into the 21st century.”
“My visit to the United States, and more especially my meeting with President Joe Biden, is essential to advancing our national interests and strengthening that very important alliance,” Marcos said.
“During this visit, we will reaffirm our commitment to fostering our long-standing alliance as an instrument of peace and as a catalyst of development in the Asia-Pacific region and for that matter the rest of the world,” he said further.
The US trip marks his first official visit as president, apart from an earlier trip in September last year to address the United Nations, where he also met for the first time with Biden.
Marcos said he would convey to his US counterpart Manila’s determination “to forge an ever stronger relationship with the United States in a wide range of areas that not only address the concerns of our times, but also those that are critical to advancing our core interests.”
“Towards this end, one of my priorities for this visit is to push for greater economic engagement, particularly through trade and investment, and science, technology, and innovation cooperation, between the United States and the Philippines,” the President said.
He also said he would explore opportunities for the country in such fields as the semiconductor industry, critical minerals, renewable, nuclear, and other forms of energy, and infrastructure projects that will improve digital telecommunication systems in the Philippines.
Marcos will also meet with American business leaders while in Washington.
“The economic team and I shall be joined by key Filipino private sector leaders in exploring business opportunities that would serve to grow our economy even more,” he said.
In an interview with Reuters on Saturday, a senior Biden administration official noted that Washington’s ties with Manila were not limited to security concerns.
“We will roll out some deliverables during the next week that will highlight business engagement but also some military enhancements as well,” he said.
The official said that as part of moves to boost commercial ties, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo would lead a presidential business delegation to the Philippines.
While Marcos ‘is in town’
But experts also note that Washington sees the Philippines as a potential location for rockets, missiles, and artillery systems to counter a Chinese amphibious invasion of Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory.
Marcos’ Washington visit comes after the Philippines on Friday accused China’s coast guard of “dangerous maneuvers” and “aggressive tactics” in the South China Sea, in another maritime confrontation between the two countries, despite a visit to Manila this weekend by Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang.
The Philippines and the United States have rapidly stepped up defense engagements, including large-scale military exercises and a recent expansion of US access to Philippine bases which China has protested.
The US administration official said the meeting on Monday would be part of efforts to build the “habits of alliance management” back to levels of the 1970s and 1980s.
“It is an attempt to build a new relationship that will obviously have important security elements, but … the idea and goal while President Marcos is in town is to demonstrate other elements,” he said.
According to the official, Marcos will also have discussions at the Pentagon about joint maritime patrols.