The Partnership Between the US and the Philippines is ‘ironclad.’- Blinken

The Philippines, a key ally of Washington, has received assurance from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken regarding US support amidst the current tensions with China.



During a visit to Manila on Tuesday, he reaffirmed America’s unwavering security commitments to the Philippines.

Tensions have escalated between Manila and Beijing in recent months due to conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea.

“The waterways play a crucial role in the Philippines, contributing to its security and economy,” stated Mr. Blinken.

“They are also of great importance to the region, the United States, and the world,” he emphasized during a joint press conference alongside Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo.

“We firmly support the Philippines and remain committed to our strong defense agreements, including the mutual defense treaty.”

According to Mr. Manalo, Manila and Washington are dedicated to strengthening their alliance.

“I believe our relationship with the United States has reached unprecedented heights,” he stated in response to a question from the BBC regarding the significance of Washington’s commitments leading up to this year’s election in the US.

During his visit, Mr Blinken will engage in discussions with Filipino officials, including trade matters, according to a senior State Department official.

The visit is also expected to strengthen American support for Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who has aligned more closely with Washington compared to his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte, who focused on strengthening ties with Beijing.

In April, President Joe Biden will be hosting a summit with Mr. Marcos and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, as announced by the White House on Tuesday.

As Mr Blinken’s plane approached the capital, Manila, the vibrant lights of the city’s bustling high-rise buildings shimmered across the bay. Last year, the Philippines emerged as the fastest growing economy in Southeast Asia. However, the country’s persistent inequality and failure to address allegations of government cronyism have contributed to its divisive political landscape.

The Philippines continues to hold significant importance for the US, particularly due to its strategic location in a dynamic region where China has emerged as a competitor to American power and influence.

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The waters of Manila Bay extend into the South China Sea, where the Philippines, along with other Asian nations, is involved in territorial disputes, trade route issues, and maritime zone conflicts with Beijing.

Amidst ongoing disputes, the encounters between the Philippine and Chinese Coast Guard have become increasingly tense in recent months, causing concerns about potential conflict. There have been reports of collisions between vessels from both countries, and earlier this month, the Chinese fired water at Philippine vessels.

“China’s actions in the South China Sea are a cause for concern as they go against international law,” expressed a senior official from the State Department. The official emphasized the significance of maintaining freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, according to the Secretary of State.

The US perceives China’s maritime activity as a form of ongoing intimidation towards its neighboring countries. Washington has a well-established defense treaty with the Philippines and has previously stated that any armed attack on Philippine vessels would result in the activation of U.S. mutual defense commitments.

In 2014, Washington also entered into a defense agreement with Manila, which enabled the US to provide financial support for the development of Philippine military bases and deploy American troops on a rotational basis. In 2023, the US successfully gained access to four additional bases, marking a significant agreement that indicated a strengthening relationship between the two nations.

The US perceives China’s maritime activity as a form of ongoing intimidation towards its neighboring countries. Washington has a well-established defense treaty with the Philippines and has previously stated that any armed attack on Philippine vessels would result in the activation of U.S. mutual defense commitments.

In 2014, Washington also entered into a defense agreement with Manila, which enabled the US to provide financial support for the development of Philippine military bases and deploy American troops on a rotational basis. In 2023, the US successfully gained access to four additional bases in a significant agreement that indicated a strengthening of relations between the two nations.

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China has expressed its concerns about the agreements because of the bases’ close proximity to Taiwan, which Beijing considers a breakaway province. The US, on the other hand, has made a commitment to defend Taiwan militarily.

Beijing asserts its historical rights over a significant portion of the South China Sea and accuses the Philippines of disregarding suggestions to address the dispute.

Mr Blinken’s visit will also be perceived in the country as a continued support for Mr Marcos, the son of the deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos, an American ally who held power for twenty years until the mid-1980s. His tenure is widely known for a prolonged period of authoritarian governance, the apprehension and mistreatment of critics, and widespread financial misconduct resulting in significant financial losses for the country.

However, the younger Mr. Marcos, who won the election in 2022 by downplaying his family’s controversial history, has become a crucial ally for Washington.

Last year, he had the honor of being invited to the White House as part of a four-day visit, which was widely seen as a recognition for his efforts in building closer ties with Washington.

His predecessor, Mr Duterte, a strongman who gained notoriety for his aggressive drug war, established ties with Beijing, seemingly acknowledging China’s increasing influence as too significant to challenge.

Following his visit to South Korea, Mr. Blinken traveled to Manila, where he expressed concerns about the rise of authoritarianism and the erosion of democratic values in certain nations.

Mr. Blinken’s recent trip is a departure from his usual focus on the Middle East, where he has been heavily involved in addressing the Gaza war and the broader regional crisis. Despite his efforts, there are currently no indications of progress in the ceasefire negotiations between Israel and Hamas.

The senior official firmly denied any suggestion that China was taking advantage of the US being preoccupied with other foreign policy crises.

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