Marcos on 2nd US trip, face-time with Biden
President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. will meet with US President Joe Biden during his working visit to the United States early next month, both Malacañang and the White House said on Friday, following weeks of tensions between the United States and China over Taiwan, and over the expansion of US military presence in the Philippines.
According to the Presidential Communications Office (PCO), Mr. Marcos will leave the country on April 30. “The President’s itinerary will begin on May 1 with a meeting with US President Joe Biden,” the PCO said in a statement.
It added: “The trip will highlight the steadfast commitment by both sides to be reliable and resilient allies and partners in times of crisis and prosperity, amid a challenging global and regional environment.”
The PCO also said Mr. Marcos’ visit will help advance his priorities “in such areas as agriculture, energy, climate change, digital transformation and technology, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, supply chains, and infrastructure.”
Mr. Marcos’ trip will be his second to the United States as President. He first met with Biden on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September last year.
From Washington, the President will attend the coronation of King Charles III in London on May 6 and will travel to Indonesia for the 42nd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit on May 9 to May 11.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in her statement that the two leaders will discuss “efforts to strengthen the two nations’ longstanding alliance [and] uphold international law and promote a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
The White House announcement comes a week after the largest-ever joint exercise between the United States and Philippine troops in the face of China’s growing assertiveness in the region, particularly over Taiwan, the self-governing island it claims as its own.
In Washington, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, met last week with their Philippine counterparts, Carlito Galvez Jr. and Enrique Manalo, for their 2+2 Ministerial Meeting.
This was held days after Manila announced the locations of four more bases it is allowing the US military to use, on top of the five agreed upon under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca).
Galvez said in a statement on Friday that the four new Edca sites—Camilo Osias Naval Base in Sta. Ana, Cagayan province; Lal-lo Airport in Lal-lo, Cagayan; Camp Melchor dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela province; and Balabac Island in Palawan province—were expected to serve as evacuation points for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) “in the event of a flare-up in the region’s flashpoints.”
Cagayan, the Philippine province that is closest to Taiwan among the Edca sites, is about 600 kilometers away from that island.
Last Friday, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian drew flak—and concern among Philippine officials—over his remarks urging the Philippines to oppose “Taiwan independence” if it “cares genuinely” about OFWs in Taiwan.
Galvez also gave an update on the 2+2 Ministerial Meeting, saying that the United States would pursue more investments in the Philippines under the US Agency for International Development (USAID), focusing on communities where Edca sites are located.
He said the United States has also increased funding for the development of the sites, from $82 million to $100 million.
“With all these developments, the DND (Department of National Defense) looks forward to exploring and undertaking more collaboration with our stakeholders towards our collective aspirations for our country,” he said.