MANILA — Despite several pronouncements by US officials of their government's ironclad commitment to the Philippines, Sen. Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa said Monday he wants to get a clearer picture of Washington's support for Manila amid the continuing disputes in the South China Sea.
Dela Rosa made the statement in relation to US Vice President Kamala Harris’s visit to the Philippines aimed at further bolstering the economic and security ties of the two countries.
Asked what for him should be prioritized by the two countries on the discussion board, Dela Rosa said: “West Philippine Sea.”
“Dapat we can get their assurance from them na talagang all-out sila sa atin pagdating sa kagipitan. Pagdating ng kagipitan, dapat hindi tayo iiwan,” Dela Rosa said.
(We should get their assurance that they will be all-out in supporting us in times of difficulties. They should not abandon us.)
“I hope the relationship is mutual. Dapat hindi one-sided, gamitan, kundi mutual.. I just hope na true to their hearts, na kung anuman yung nakalagay sa ating Mutual (Defense) Agreement ay paninindigan nila 'yon at talagang totohanan ang kanilang suporta kung kinakailangan natin. Maniguro lang tayo,” he added.
(The relationship should not be one-sided but mutual. I just hope that true to their hearts, whatever is provided in our mutual agreement, they will stick to it and they will truly support us when we need them. Let's get that assurance from them.)
Even before Harris, in her meeting Monday with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., reiterated that any armed attack on the Philippine military, as well as the country's public vessels and aircraft, "would invoke the US mutual defense commitment", many other US officials have already said so.
While in the past Washington has been saying it is not taking sides on the competing claims in the South China Sea even as it calls for a peaceful resolution of the dispute, it eventually aligned its position on the issue with the July 2016 arbitration ruling that invalidated the basis for Beijing's claim.
Sen. Christopher Go, for his part, prefers to hear a clear US policy on how they will help modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Discussions about helping the country’s economy is also highly-important, according to Go.
“Kung ano ang makakatulong sa ekonomiya, sa peace and order and of course, South China Sea,” Go said.
Dela Rosa and Go are allies of former President Rodrigo Duterte who distanced his administration from the US as he pivoted toward China and Russia.
Prior to Harris' arrival in Manila, the White House announced that the US and the Philippines will begin talks on a civil nuclear cooperation agreement that could lead to future sales of US nuclear reactors to the country.
Harris is the highest ranking American official to visit the Philippines since Marcos assumed the presidency last June.
Her husband Douglas Emhoff had visited the country to attend Marcos' inauguration. Emhoff's visit, Harris said, paved the way for her own Nov. 20-22 visit.