Attacks made against Philippine forces in the South China Sea will invoke the United States' mutual defense promises.
This was the commitment made by Vice President Kamala Harris during her courtesy call on President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Monday at Malacañan Palace.
Harris described the relations between Manila and Washington as based on "mutual concerns about security for the region." She stressed that the basis of the ties between the two countries was mutual commitments to international rules and norms.
"We are both proud members of the Indo-Pacific and in particular as it relates to the Philippines. I will say that we must reiterate always that we stand with you in defense of international rules and norms as it relates to the South China Sea... An armed attack on the Philippine Armed Forces public vessels or aircraft in the South China Sea would invoke US mutual defense commitments," Harris said.
"And that is an unwavering commitment that we have to the Philippines," Harris told Marcos, noting that the alliance between the US and the Philippines is a "strong and enduring one."
Harris further told Marcos that it is under his leadership that the relations would continue to be strengthened: "We look forward to working with you on many of these issues and I of course bring you greetings from President Joe Biden."
The President, for his part, emphasized that the partnership with the US has become more important, saying that Harris' visit in the Philippines is a "strong symbol" that the ties remain strong.
"The situation is rapidly changing. We must evolve to be properly responsive to that situation but so that is why it is very important that we continue to progress, that we continue to strengthen as we redefine those relationships," Marcos said.
Marcos also reiterated that he does not see the Philippines in the future without the US: "I have said many times I do not see a future for the Philippines that does not include the United States."
"Of course we went through different phases of relationship, but as since the war it's just been strengthened in every way in the economic sense, in the political sense, defense security. I cannot think of an area where we have not cooperated, collaborated and have had good results for both our countries," said Marcos.
Marcos also expressed gratitude to Harris for her commitment in supporting the Philippines.
"Well, thank you, Madame Vice President. Please do send President Biden my warmest regards. And I thank you for the very strong commitment that you have just made for the US to be defensive of the Philippines," Marcos said.
Harris arrived in Manila on Sunday night. She is scheduled to visit Puerto Princesa, Palawan on Tuesday wherein she is expected to make a remark about the importance of international law and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
The US has been vocal for its push for a free and open Indo-Pacific.
When it comes to the South China Sea issue, Marcos has expressed the importance of abiding by international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
During his working visit to New York in September, Marcos said most of the strongest corporate benefactors of the Philippines are coming from the US. —KG/KBK, GMA Integrated News