Marcos, top US official tackle 'preserving free Indo-Pacific', bilateral ties

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 09 2022 12:55 PM | Updated as of Jun 09 2022 02:20 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) — President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Thursday discussed economic ties, human rights, and regional security with Washington’s No. 2 diplomat, US officials said. 

US States Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who is visiting the Philippines and several Asian countries this month, said she "was pleased to meet and congratulate President-elect Marcos."

"We discussed strengthening our longstanding alliance, expanding people-to-people ties, deepening our economic relationship, advancing human rights, and preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific," she said in a tweet.

The US is the Philippines' only defense ally. But Marcos’ predecessor, outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, has slammed the US over its criticism of alleged rights violations in the drug war that he unleashed when he took office in 2016. 

Duterte also realigned with Beijing, Washington’s rival, despite the dispute over the West Philippine Sea, parts of which are claimed by China. 

In a separate statement, the US State Department said Marcos and Sherman “highlighted the importance of the US-Philippine Alliance to security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and the world and the importance of fostering respect for human rights and rule of law in the Philippines.”

They also “agreed on the importance of partnering together to strengthen our economies, including the importance of public-private partnerships, clean energy and our digital economy,” said Ned Price, spokesperson of the agency. 

"They discussed opportunities for our two nations to deepen our Alliance and friendship and seize new opportunities to deliver for our people in the years to come," he added.
 
Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez, incoming Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez, and Department of Foreign Affairs Under Secretary Theresa Lazaro were also present in the said meeting.

Sherman is also scheduled to visit South Korea, Laos, and Vietnam.
 
"The Deputy Secretary's travel to the region reflects the United States' continued commitment to the Indo-Pacific," the US State Department said in an earlier statement.

It noted that Sherman's trip followed the US-ASEAN Special Summit in May, US President Joe Biden's visit to South Korea and Japan, the Quad Leaders' Summit in Tokyo, and the launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. 

Leaders of Japan, Australia, the United States and India—members of the so-called Quad alliance—said late last month they oppose all attempts to "change the status quo by force, particularly in the Indo-Pacific".

The statement comes with international pressure on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, and growing concern about whether Beijing could try to forcibly seize self-ruled Taiwan.

Last month, Biden congratulated Marcos Jr. for winning the presidential elections.

Marcos earlier invited Biden to attend his inauguration on June 30. US officials have yet to say if Biden accepted the invitation.

— With a report from Agence France-Presse