By Alex P. Vidal
“You only trust those who are absolutely like yourself, those who have signed a pledge of allegiance to this particular identity.”
THE meeting between US President Joseph “Joe” Biden Jr. and Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. at the InterContinental Barclay in New York City lasted only for six minutes.
It started at 11:21 o’clock and ended at 11:27 o’clock in the morning.
The two leaders reflected on the importance of the U.S.-Philippines alliance even as President Biden reaffirmed the United States’ ironclad commitment to the defense of the Philippines.
They primarily discussed the situation in the South China Sea and underscored their support for freedom of navigation and overflight and the peaceful resolution of disputes.
They also discussed opportunities to expand bilateral cooperation on a wide range of issues, including energy security, climate action, and infrastructure.
The two presidents also discussed Russia’s war against Ukraine and its implications for energy prices and food security, as well as ASEAN matters, the crisis in Burma, and the importance of respect for human rights.
PRESIDENT BIDEN: Well, Mr. President, welcome to you and your delegation. I—I think I woke you up election night. I called you so late to congratulate you. (Laughter.) But it’s a great victory, and I—and my best to your wife as well.
The relationship between the United States and the Philippines, to state the obvious, has very deep roots. We’ve had some rocky times, but the fact is it’s a critical, critical relationship, from our perspective. I hope you feel the same way.
And we have strong ties, including millions of Filipino Americans who are very proud of their ancestry and desperately want us to continue to have a strong relationship.
And our foundations are strong in the U.S.-Philippine alliance, which is of critical importance.
For decades, the alliance has strengthened both of us, I believe. And one of the things I want to talk about today is how we continue to strengthen that and work together on the things that are of greatest concern to you.
Today, I look forward to discussing the opportunities for a wi- — wide range of issues, including COVID-19 recovery, energy security, and renewable energy.
I—I was impressed with the work you did on windmills and a whole range of other things. You and I both think that’s the future; we can do a lot. We—how we can do a lot together. I’m desperately interested in making sure we do.
In addition, I expect we’ll discuss the South China Sea and disputes in a critical global through— throughway. I’ve spent a lot of time with—with not only the President of China but others about the international waters and how they have to be respected. And we should talk about that a little bit, I hope.
And we’re also—thank you for your position on the war against Ukraine and—by Russia—and how it’s impacting energy prices and—and food prices. And we—we’re working very hard to be able to do something about that.
And—and so, we want to talk about human rights, talk about a whole range of things. But I’m mainly interested to know what’s on your mind and how we can continue to strengthen this relationship.
And again, congratulations.
PRESIDENT MARCOS: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you. We’re very happy for the opportunity to meet with you despite the schedules that we both have to deal with.
PRESIDENT BIDEN: You came a little further than I did.
PRESIDENT MARCOS: (Laughs.) Well, the—the relationship—the 100-plus-year-old relationship between the Philippines and the U.S. continues to evolve as we face the challenges of this new century and the events that we have been watching over the past few months, really.
So, we have very much to discuss in terms of redefining, I suppose, in many ways.
But the role of the United States in maintaining the peace in our region is something that is much appreciated by all the countries in the regions and the Philippines especially.
We feel that we are especially fortunate because we have very strong foundation of a very long relationship and the stren—strong relationships on various facets not only political, not only diplomatic, but also economic.
And, of course, there is the very large Filipino population that have chosen to live and make their lives here in the United States and have been very successful.
PRESIDENT MARCOS: Again, we would like to thank the United States for the massive help that we received during the pandemic.
We had the provision of up to 35–almost 36 million doses of vaccines very early on, ahead of some of the other countries. And for that we are very, very grateful.
We continue to look to the United States for that continuing partnership and the maintenance of peace in our region.
In terms of the geopolitical issues that we face in this day and age, the primary consideration of the Philippines and the guiding principle of the Philippine foreign policy is to encourage peace.
And I hope that we will be able to discuss further the roles that our two countries will play together and individually as we continue down that road, maintaining peace despite all of the complexities that have arisen in the past few months, I suppose.
So, thank you again, Mr. President, for making time to see us. We are your partners. We are your allies. We are your friends. And in like fashion, we have always considered the United States our partner, our ally, and our friend.
PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you. It’s mutual.
(Cross-talk by reporters.)
PRESIDENT BIDEN: I wouldn’t bother answering. (Source: White House)
(The author, who is now based in New York City, used to be the editor of two local dailies in Iloilo.—Ed)