Cleverly: UK keen to broaden security ties with PH
MANILA, Philippines — The United Kingdom sees an “exciting time” ahead for its bilateral ties with the Philippines, its top diplomat said on Tuesday as the two nations agreed to refine their collaboration on defense, security, and other fields.
During his daylong visit to Manila, British Foreign Minister James Cleverly met with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to discuss wide-ranging topics, including the prospect of tighter maritime cooperation amid heightened tensions between Manila and Beijing in the West Philippine Sea.
“It is not traditional for us to look to Europe… to seek alliances and partnerships when it comes to security and defense. But that seems to be the evolution [of] geopolitics these days,” the president told Cleverly.
“It is a welcome evolution in my view, and again your visit here, I think, is a clear indication of that intent,” Marcos said.
The president and Cleverly first met in London during the coronation of King Charles III in May.
Earlier on Tuesday, the British official signed with Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo a joint statement of intent to develop a framework agreement envisioned “to build on the exchanges that our two countries have been undertaking in the areas of defense, security, maritime, climate, economic, and people-to-people ties” since 2021.
That was the year the “Enhanced Partnership” between the two countries was first launched.
“It also signals the strengthening of our bilateral ties in trade, investments, security, maritime cooperation and other fields,” Manalo said after signing the document, noting that Cleverly was the first British foreign minister to visit the Philippines since 2016.
During their meeting, the diplomats also discussed “pressing and evolving regional and international issues of mutual concern.”
Cleverly said: “This is an exciting time for our relationship,” as he noted that the Philippine-UK partnership was “founded on our shared values that respects openness, freedom and the rule of law.”
According to him, he had a valuable discussion with Manalo about “what more we can do together.”
During his brief visit, Cleverly also stopped by the Philippine Coast Guard “to hear about the work they do to uphold Unclos (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and to protect the maritime environment.”
“The UK is building enduring partnerships with the Philippines and like-minded countries across the region to safeguard security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific,” he said.
The Philippines has sought to strengthen its security cooperation with its allies and neighbors in the face of China’s growing aggression in the West Philippine Sea, or the waters within the country’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone.
Cleverly said the UK was also broadening its maritime cooperation with the Philippines, including sharing knowledge on maritime law, promoting maritime domain awareness, and advancing environmental protection.
“And this year we supported the Philippines in adapting to the unavoidable consequences of climate change, particularly in coastal areas and oceans,” he added.
Manalo described the Philippines and the UK as “like-minded partners through our shared values of democracy and the rule of law, our unwavering commitment to the rules-based international order, and our pursuit of peace and stability.”
The UK, according to Manalo, remains an important partner of the Philippines, “especially in this time of geographic upheavals, economic disruptions, and challenges to the rule of law.”
“It is my hope that our commitment to further elevate our Enhanced Partnership will promote better understanding, and enrich the enduring bonds of friendship between our governments and peoples,” he said.
According to Cleverly, his country has “boosted investment in clean infrastructure and energy” in the Philippines, and “launched a new trading scheme to increase Filipino exports to the UK.”
Bilateral trade between the two countries stands at 2.4 billion euros (around P147.4 billion) annually in goods and services, the “highest level that it has ever been,” he said.