Marcos goes to US hoping to secure ‘greater economic engagement’

Marcos goes to US hoping to secure �greater economic engagement�
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 (Updated, 4:50 p.m.) — President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is headed to the United States to discuss with counterpart US President Joe Biden “greater economic engagement,” among other concerns to help advance the Philippines’ interests.  

Marcos Jr. left for an official working visit to Washington DC on Sunday, April 30. He will be in the US from May 1 to 4, meeting with Biden as well as several business leaders.

“I intend to speak and find opportunities in the semi-conductor industry, critical minerals, renewable and clean energy – including nuclear – and infrastructure projects that will improve our digital telecommunications systems and facilitate sustainable efforts to address climate change,” Marcos Jr. said in his pre-departure speech. 

The Philippines also hopes to tap the US for help in other areas such as food security, agriculture, and cybersecurity. 

“I intend to convey to President Biden and his senior cabinet officials that [the Philippines is] determined to forge an even stronger relationship with the United States in a wide range of areas that not only address concerns of our times but also those that are critical to advancing our core interests,” Marcos added.

'Packed full'

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel “Babe” Romualdez said Marcos Jr.’s four-day visit is “packed full.” Meetings are set with business leaders working in sectors of nuclear and renewable energy, healthcare, and tourism, to name a few. 

“One of these companies is NuScale, whose groundbreaking and proprietary technology in designing advanced nuclear small modular reactors has made it an industry leader,” Romualdez wrote in his column

Marcos Jr. is keen on adopting nuclear power, along with the Philippines transition to renewable energy, amid the country’s energy crisis. 

Manila and Washington earlier said a potential US-Philippines Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement or the 123 agreement is being negotiated. This would provide the framework for nuclear cooperation between the two countries for training needed for small modular reactors and other clean energy solutions.

The visit comes after a string of official engagements between Manila and Washington – from US Vice President Kamala Harris’ quick stop to the Philippines last September, where she reaffirmed the US’ defense commitment to the Philippines amid regional tensions and issues in the West Philippine Sea, to the recent 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue of the defense and foreign affairs chiefs of both countries. 

Ahead of Marcos's visit, US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller slammed China over the near collision of one of its coast guard ships with a Philippine patrol boat a week ago, saying it was a reminder of Beijing's "harassment and intimidation" in the contested waterway.

RELATED: From A to Z: Discussions at the US-Philippines defense, foreign affairs dialogue

Marcos Jr. already met with Biden last year in September, at the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

This is the chief executive’s 10th official overseas trip since taking office last year. After the US, Marcos Jr. will be heading to the United Kingdom to attend the coronation of Charles III on May 6 and he will also attend the 42nd ASEAN Summit in Indonesia on May 9 to 11. 

Biden has been working to bolster relations with Asian allies as the US-Chinese relationship remains in a historically deep chill, and the Philippines' proximity to key sea lanes and Taiwan gives it particular strategic importance. 

'Ironclad commitment'

US-Philippine ties were badly frayed under Marcos's predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte.

Marcos has sought to allay public fears that the reviving alliance with the United States could bring the Philippines into the conflict if China were to invade Taiwan.

He has said that with Biden he will discuss the "need to tone down the rhetoric" over the South China Sea, Taiwan and North Korea.

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said this month that Biden intended, in the meeting with Marcos, to "reaffirm the United States' ironclad commitment to the defense of the Philippines". — with a report from AFP

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