May 28, 2024


The meetings in Manila were dominated by talk of muted US-China tensions over Taiwan Visiting US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Blinken said a 70-year-old defense pact with the Philippines was “iron.”

“An armed attack on Philippine armed forces, public vessels and aircraft would invoke US mutual defense commitments under this treaty,” Blinken told a news conference.

“The Philippines is an irreplaceable friend, partner and ally of the United States.”

Blinken was the highest-ranking U.S. official to meet new President Ferdinand Marcos Jnr., the son of the late strongman Washington helped exile in Hawaii during a 1986 “people power” uprising that ended the two-year his administration.

In his opening remarks to Blinken, Marcos sought to downplay the diplomatic flare-up in Taiwan and said he believed Pelosi’s trip “did not escalate” an already volatile situation.

“We’ve been at this level for quite some time, but we’ve kind of gotten used to the idea,” Markos said.

The Philippines is at the center of the geopolitical rivalry between the US and China, and Marcos faces a difficult challenge in balancing ties between the two superpowers.

He will also face internal pressure to stand China in the South China Sea without angering its leadership.

US-Philippines ties have been shaken by predecessor Rodrigo Duterte’s overtures to China, his famous anti-American rhetoric and threats to downgrade their military ties.

On Saturday, Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo said President Joe Biden had invited Marcos to Washington and the two sides were working on a suitable date.

Marcos has not been to the U.S. in more than a decade, largely because of a contempt of court order for his refusal to cooperate with a Hawaii court that in 1995 ordered the Marcos family to return $2 billion of missing state property to the victims of abuses by the state under his father’s rule.

Marcos Jr. and mother, Imelda, also face a $353 million fine.

The US embassy in Manila said heads of state have diplomatic immunity.

Manalo said Washington was an important ally, but on nearby Taiwan he told Blinken that the Philippines “looks at the big powers to help calm the waters.”

“We cannot afford any further escalation of tensions,” he said.


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