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Economy

US envoy to meet with Marcos during Asian visit

REUTERS

A HIGH-RANKING diplomat from the US will meet with senior members of the incoming and outgoing administrations to discuss the alliance between the two countries.

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman will meet with Philippine President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr., his key officials and members of outgoing President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s government from June 5 to 14 to discuss ways to deepen the US-Philippines alliance, the US Department of State said in a statement posted on its website on Friday. 

“She will also participate in a business roundtable and an event in celebration of World Oceans Day,” the agency said.

The Philippines is among the stops of Ms. Sherman’s Asia visit this month. She’s also expected to visit South Korea, Laos and Vietnam.

The Asia visit, which Washington said reflects its continued commitment to the Indo-Pacific, follows last month’s US-ASEAN Special Summit, President Joseph S. Biden’s visit to South Korea and Japan, the Quad Leaders’ Summit in Tokyo and the launch of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, according to the statement. 

Mr. Biden earlier called Mr. Marcos to congratulate him for his landslide victory at this year’s election. President Biden said he looked forward to working with the president-elect to continue strengthening the US-Philippine alliance.

Philippine relations with the US under Mr. Marcos would be better but “will not be exclusive to anyone,” his spokesman Victor D. Rodriguez earlier said.

Last year, the US vowed to defend the Philippines in case of a Chinese attack in the South China Sea. A United Nations-backed tribunal in 2016 voided China’s claim to more than 80% of the disputed waterway.

Mr. Marcos earlier said the Philippines under his leadership would join a US-backed economic framework for the Indo-Pacific that Washington crafted to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

The South China Sea, a key global shipping route, is subject to overlapping territorial claims involving China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. Each year, trillions of dollars of trade flow through the sea, which is also rich in fish and gas.

Brunei Ambassador to the Philippines Johairah Wahab, who also represented the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), paid Mr. Marcos a courtesy visit on Monday

The incoming Philippine president also met with the envoys of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Indonesia.

Mr. Marcos has vowed to protect Philippine-claimed areas in the waterway by engaging China on the dispute, saying the Philippines under his term would consistently talk to its neighbor “with a firm voice.”

British Ambassador to the Philippines Laure Beaufils was among the European diplomats who visited the country last month.

Ms. Beufils reaffirmed the United Kingdom’s commitment to work with the Philippines and other partners to keep a rule-based order in the South China Sea.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in January last year said he was looking at the possibility of the UK joining the Quad, a security dialogue between Australia, India, Japan and the US.

Also last year, the UK signed a trilateral security pact with Australia and the US, which international observers said had caused China to panic.

During the presidential campaign, Mr. Marcos said a sphere of influence concept is no longer applicable to the modern world’s geopolitics.

Foreign and local analysts have said the international community would closely watch Mr. Marcos’ moves after he stayed mum on key issues during the campaign. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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