Harris visit to PH meant to ensure peace in the region - envoy

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 23 2022 01:45 PM | Updated as of Nov 23 2022 02:32 PM

US Vice President Kamala Harris arrive at Puerto Princesa International Airport before visiting a local village in Palawan on Nov. 22, 2022. Haiyun Jiang/Pool/AFP
US Vice President Kamala Harris arrive at Puerto Princesa International Airport before visiting a local village in Palawan on Nov. 22, 2022. Haiyun Jiang/Pool/AFP

MANILA — US Vice President Kamala Harris' visit to the Philippines is meant to ensure peace in the Asia-Pacific region, the country's top diplomat in Washington said Wednesday.

According to Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel "Babe" Romualdez, Harris' visit also meant Washington is "seriously behind" Manila in its territorial dispute against China in the South China Sea.

"All of this tells us that there is a strong commitment now for all of us to make sure that there is the freedom of navigation, to make our maritime security safe, and that there will be peace in our region," he told ANC's "Headstart".

"All members of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) welcome the presence of the US at this part of the world and their commitment to make sure the area remains peaceful," he added.

Amid tensions in the South China Sea, Romualdez said the Philippine government has been "extremely patient".

"But you know, in Filipino, patience has also its limits and I know that there will [be] 1 day, I hope it never happens, the Filipino will rise up and say enough is enough," he said. 

"That's what I hope will be communicated to many of those that are trying to challenge our territorial rights."

Romualdez said President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has "vowed to not give up 1 inch of our territorial waters".

"If our allies like the United States will help us, of course, we welcome it," he said.

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Harris has reaffirmed the United States' "unwavering" commitment to defending the Philippines if its vessels or aircraft were attacked in the South China Sea.

Harris is the highest-ranking US official to visit Manila since Marcos took power in June, signaling a growing rapport between the longtime allies after years of frosty relations under his Beijing-friendly predecessor Rodrigo Duterte.

"We stand with you in defense of international rules and norms as it relates to the South China Sea," Harris told Marcos at the start of talks in the presidential palace in Manila.

Washington has a decades-old security alliance with the Philippines that includes a mutual defense treaty and a 2014 pact, known by the acronym EDCA, which allows for the US military to store defense equipment and supplies on 5 Philippine bases.

It also allows US troops to rotate through those military bases.
Beijing claims sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea and has ignored an international court ruling that its claims have no legal basis.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have overlapping claims to parts of it. 

— With a report from Agence France-Presse