Biden wants stronger ties with Philippines under Marcos after ‘rocky times’

Xave Gregorio - Philstar.com
Biden wants stronger ties with Philippines under Marcos after �rocky times�
US President Joe Biden meets with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York City on September 22, 2022.
AFP / Mandel Ngan

MANILA, Philippines — US President Joe Biden seeks to build closer ties with the Philippines under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. despite “rocky times” between the two countries in the past.

At the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Biden and Marcos met in person for the first time to discuss the alliance between their countries, the situation in the South China Sea, Russia’s war against Ukraine and its impact on energy and food prices, along with other matters.

“The relationship between the United States and the Philippines, to state the obvious, has very deep roots,” Biden said at the start of the meeting, according to a transcript from the White House. “We’ve had some rocky times, but the fact is it’s a critical, critical relationship, from our perspective. I hope you feel the same way.”

US-Philippine relations were bumpy during the presidency of Marcos’ predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, who pivoted away from Manila’s traditional ally Washington in favor of Beijing.

Duterte has been accused of human rights violations over the conduct of his administration’s “war on drugs” that has killed over 6,000 drug suspects according to the Philippine government’s tally, which human rights groups say is an undercount as they believe the real death toll might even reach around 30,000.

At the start of his presidency in 2016, Duterte took a swipe against then US President Barack Obama whom he called a “son of a whore” when asked by a reporter how he intended to explain alleged extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

Some US lawmakers were also at the forefront of the opposition towards the supposed human rights violations during the course of the “war on drugs,” which displeased the Philippine presidential palace.

Marcos is a known Duterte ally and is even seen to continue his predecessor’s policies, including the war on drugs, albeit with a different push.

"The war on drugs will continue but we have to do it in a different way," Marcos said last week in an interview with his goddaughter Toni Gonzaga on All TV, adding that his administration is looking at preventing drug use and rehabilitating drug users.

But respect for human rights continues to be a concern for the US, as Biden and Marcos also discussed this during their meeting, according to a readout from the White House.

From the start of his presidency, Biden has prioritized improving relations with countries in the Pacific as he sees China to be an economic and national security threat.

Marcos told Biden that the Philippines “continue[s] to look to the United States for that continuing partnership and the maintenance of peace in our region.”

“In terms of the geopolitical issues that we face in this day and age, the primary consideration of the Philippines and the guiding principle of the Philippine foreign policy is to encourage peace,” Marcos said.

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