Blinken tells BBM: U.S. steadfast ally

Amid reports of rising China tension in Taiwan, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday reassured President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. that the world’s most dominant economic and military power is committed to upholding its Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines.

“We’re committed to the Mutual Defense Treaty. We’re committed to working with you on shared challenges,” Blinken said in a courtesy call on Marcos Jr. in Malacañang Palace.

The Philippines and US, he said, are working together on bilateral issues in the region and globally on many challenges like Covid-19.

“We’ve been proud to be your partner in working on that and protecting all of our people; whether it’s climate and the need to deal with that existential challenge; or whether it’s the impact of all of these new technologies on the lives of our people,” he said.

The top US diplomat also recognized the partnership with the Philippines in many different areas and the “almost unique people-to-people ties that the US tremendously value.”

Meanwhile, Marcos Jr. said the 70-year-old Mutual Defense Treaty is in “constant evolution” and can no longer be “isolated” to only one sector.

“The Mutual Defense Treaty is in constant evolution, I’d like to think of it,” Marcos told Blinken. “We can no longer isolate one part of our relationship from the other.”

The defense accord, which was signed on 30 August 1951, stipulated that the Philippines and the US would support each other if either of them were to be attacked by an external aggressor.


Special historic ties

He added: “We are too closely tied because of the special relationship between the United States and the Philippines and the history that we share. And of course, all the assistance and help and support that we have received from the United States over the years. And they can no longer be categorized as one thing or another because they cover such a large scope.”

Blinken’s Manila trip came following US Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan which annoyed China, resulting in heightened military threats along the median line of the Taiwan Strait.

China has then imposed several sanctions on the self-ruled island including suspension of imports from Taiwanese exporters of biscuits and pastries as well as exports of natural sand, citrus fruits, and frozen fish products.

Asserting that Taiwan is part of its territory, the Chinese government views official visits by foreign government officials to the island as recognizing its sovereignty.

Marcos, however, said he is not convinced Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan “raised the intensity of the conflict,” but it only “demonstrated the intensity of the conflict” between China and the US.

“It actually has been at that level for a good while, but we got used to it and put it aside,” he told Blinken. “But nonetheless, this just demonstrates how volatile the international diplomatic scene is not only in the region. The events in Ukraine have been significant surprisingly even to countries like the Philippines.”


Evolving Phl-US ties

Marcos cited the “importance of the relationship” between the US and the Philippines considering such global concerns.

“I hope that we will continue to evolve that relationship in the face of all the changes we have been seeing and the changes that are between in our bilateral relationship with the United States,” Marcos told Blinken.

Blinken described the US-Philippines relations as “quite extraordinary,” noting it was “founded in friendship” and “forged in partnership.”

Recognizing America’s economic relations with the Philippines, Blinken said: “We meet in so many other areas. The work we do together matters, it matters to people back home in the United States and I hope you believe what matters to people here in the Philippines.”

“So I’m grateful for this opportunity to deepen everything that we’ve been doing. We’re grateful to be working with you in your administration,” he added.

Blinken arrived in Manila early Saturday morning from Phnom Penh, Cambodia after attending the ASEAN Regional Forum, US-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, and the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.

He arrived at Malacañang at 9 a.m. and proceeded to his meeting with Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo.

Official photos of Blinken’s visit to Malacañang showed Marcos welcoming the US official, who was accompanied by United States Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Loss Carlson.

His visit marks the first time a US top diplomat visited the Philippines after Mike Pompeo’s visit in March 2019.

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