The US has an “unwavering” commitment to the Philippines, US Vice President Kamala Harris yesterday told Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr during a visit aimed at countering China and rebuilding ties that were fractured over human rights abuses in the Southeast Asian nation.
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, former Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte.
She also met with Philippine Vice President Sara Duterte, the daughter of the former leader whose deadly drug war sparked an international investigation into alleged human rights abuses.
“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.
“An attack on the Philippine armed forces, public vessels or aircraft in the South China Sea would invoke the US mutual defense commitment... That is our unwavering commitment to the Philippines,” Harris said.
Marcos said he did not “see a future for the Philippines that does not include the United States.”
Washington is seeking to bolster its security alliance with Manila under the new president.
That includes a mutual defense treaty and the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which allows for the US military to store defense equipment and supplies on five Philippine bases.
It also allows US troops to rotate through those military bases.
EDCA stalled under Rodrigo Duterte, but the US and the Philippines have expressed support for accelerating its implementation as China becomes increasingly assertive.
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