MANILA—A political analyst and an international relations expert on Friday weighed positively on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s meeting with US President Joe Biden.
Marcos Jr. met with Biden earlier Friday morning (Manila time) on the sidelines of the 77th United Nations General Assembly.
Governance reform advocate Dindo Manhit said the state leaders' meeting in New York indicated the renewal and restrengthening of Philippine-US relations, which became lukewarm during the Duterte administration.
Manhit said then-President Rodrigo Duterte's supposed pivot to China was a mere "noise." In truth, the Philippines remains a treaty ally of the United States, he added.
The meeting between Marcos Jr. and Biden capitalized on the Philippines' future significant gains, he said.
"Patuloy ang pagpasok ng mga investment, patuloy ang nakikita nating export opportunities sa ating bayan. And with that alam naman natin na yan ay magreresulta rin sa job creation which is very important sa ating bansa," Manhit said.
"The US has always been a strong economic partner na naiiba sa China, more of importation tayo. Hindi malaki ang ating exports for them, hindi rin malaki ang kanilang investments to our country," he pointed out.
"Ang maganda pa sa Amerika, kung tayo ay kakampi o ally, ang Amerika, may mga allies din. Kung saan sila nagi-invest, sumasama rin ang mga kakampi nila," Manhit said, referring to Japan, South Korea, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the European Union.
The renewed friendship between the two countries meantime opens up "good timing" for the Philippines to intensify its assertion of ownership of the West Philippine Sea, he said.
The country can also strengthen its military agreements with the US, specifically, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), RP-US Military Exercises, Mutual Defense Treaty, and the Visiting Forces Agreement, Manhit said.
Marcos Jr.'s "multi-polar" diplomatic approach can also result in a solid commitment to honor freedom of navigation and oil exploration interests, according to the analyst.
But all these must not be focused only on the US.
"We should turn this treaty alliance, put it to a higher level of actual working relationship with the US to protect our territory, but not only limited to the US. Pero sana i-broaden natin sa iba pang kaalyado ng Amerika ... Japan would like to help us in our coastal watch, South Korea is helping in our modernization of the AFP, even EU," Manhit said.
"In the end, preventive to. Hindi ka nakikipag-giyera pero parang pinapakita mo na may mga kaibigan ka na nirerespeto ang aming mga teritoryo at tutulungan kami to defend it."
De La Salle University Professor Renato de Castro of the International Studies Department also said there was never a Philippine pivot to China despite Duterte's repeated pronouncements during his presidency.
This was due to China's continuous harassment of Filipino fishermen and its unfulfilled commitments to the Philippines, De Castro said.
The government should use the opportunity to assert its right over the West Philippine Sea, and Filipinos should not fear China's possible reaction to the renewed Philippines-US ties, he said.
"Ang strategic goal ng Tsina is to win without actually fighting ... probably its high time that we test the waters, and we show to China that we would challenge you as much as possible in a peaceful manner but we will not anymore be intimidated by your growing presence in our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)," De Castro said.
Asked what "test the waters" meant, De Castro said: "It's time we conduct a unilateral exploration dun sa Reed Bank." He believes Biden's interest to discuss "human rights" issues with the President was all about the "baggage" left by Duterte in his war against illegal drugs and the continuous detention of former senator Leila de Lima.
As to when the fruits of the meeting will be felt in the Philippines, De Castro said the public has to wait.
"Symbolic lang 'to, many work has to be done. This is symbolism. What matters is the symbolism and the goodwill," he said. "They (US) would still explore. We have probably caught their attention. But whether they will put the money where our mouth is, is another matter. Because they have to look at other factors. Infrastructure, peace and order situation."
Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda meantime sees the renewed ties between the two countries as timely.
"Our ties with the United States has both historical and cultural roots, and is deemed important especially during these times of global energy and food insecurity amid the climate crisis. They are an ally we can rely on especially as a balancing force in the ever-evolving geopolitical landscape," Legarda said.
For Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, Marcos's face-to-face diplomacy "yields tremendous dividends for our nation, from job-creating investments to agreements that promote the social good."
But for Duterte's loyal supporter, Senator Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa, the President's meeting with Biden has given him doubts.
"I am not sure though if he still maintains an independent foreign policy as he has been articulating in his past pronouncements. But be that as it may, strengthening our ties with our long-time ally is a positive development as we confront the issues in the West Philippine Sea," Dela Rosa said.