January 31, 2023

Filipino Guardian

Sentinels of Filipino Free Press

Harris: The US will defend the Philippines if attacked at sea


US Vice President Kamala Harris said Monday an armed attack on Philippine ships in the South China Sea would trigger a mutual defense treaty between the two countries.

“We support you in defending international rules and norms regarding the South China Sea,” she told President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. at a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Manila, based on a transcript she sent.

“An armed attack on the Philippines, military forces, public ships or aircraft in the South China Sea would invoke US mutual defense obligations. This is an unwavering commitment we have to the Philippines,” she added.

“Each party recognizes that an armed attack in the Pacific Rim on either party would endanger its own peace and security and declares that it would act to meet the common threats in accordance with its constitutional processes,” it said it in the US of 1951 – Treaty of Mutual Defense of the Philippines.

“The relationship between our two countries is something that we both depend on — our two countries have become really dependent,” Mr Marcos told Ms Harris.

He said her visit to the Philippines was a “very powerful symbol” that the Philippines’ relationship with its former colonizer “remains strong.”

Mr Marcos also said the Philippine relationship with the United States has passed through various stages and has been strengthened in every respect.

The Philippines, under the late President Benigno SC Aquino III, signed an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US, the country’s key Western ally.

His successor, Rodrigo R. Duterte, had threatened to withdraw from a visit deal with the US after the US embassy canceled the visa of his ally, Senator Ronald M. de la Rosa, his former police chief who waged his deadly war on drugs.

Ms. Harris, the senior US official to visit the country since Mr. Marcos took office in June, will visit the island province of Palawan near the South China Sea on November 22. Her husband Douglas Emhoff had previously come to the Philippines to attend the inauguration of Mr. Marcos.

“In the economic, political, defense and security spheres, we cannot think of an area where we have not worked together, worked together and achieved good results for our two countries,” said Mr. Marcos.

The two leaders were set to discuss potential collaborations to tackle the climate crisis and boost the country’s renewable and clean energy sector.

Meanwhile, the US is seeking to continue its Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the Philippines, signed in 2014 and building on the 1999 Mutual Defense Treaty and Visiting Forces Agreement, according to a factsheet emailed by the US Embassy in Manila. It was also published on the White House website.

The military agreement provides a legal basis for Filipino and American soldiers to conduct security cooperation exercises, conduct joint and combined military training activities, and take turns responding to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts from agreed locations in the Philippines.

US and Philippine forces have also used EDCA sites during Kamandag and Balikatan military exercises.

According to the statement, the US has committed more than $82 million for EDCA implementation at five existing sites in the Philippines.

“This investment and upcoming additional allocation will complete 21 projects and enable the United States and the Philippines to build durable security infrastructure to promote long-term modernization, build a credible mutual defense posture, maintain humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities and strength of strengthening the alliance,” it said.

New EDCA sites have also been identified to allow the US and Philippines to continue working together to achieve the goals of the military pact.

“The United States has awarded the vast majority of contracts to support these projects to Filipino companies, creating economic growth in local Filipino communities and building enduring friendships between the United States and the Philippines,” the fact sheet said.

Also on Monday, the Philippine Foreign Ministry welcomed the US government’s initiatives to strengthen the alliance between the two countries.

“The Philippines and the United States agree on the importance of strengthening the economic security of the Philippines so that we are able to meet both our individual and collective challenges,” it said in a separate statement.

“We hope to continue the extensive bilateral commitments between our two countries to achieve tangible, relevant and substantive results in support of the Philippines’ economic development goals,” she added.

The agency said it was important to advance cooperation with Washington at the bilateral, regional and global levels. “Vice President Harris’ visit will further strengthen our partnership, alliance, and friendship.” — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza and Alyssa Nicole O. Tan