Nothing substantial

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

Philippine President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. left yesterday for the United States where he is expected to join Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation world leaders in a summit in San Francisco and Los Angeles. It was reported also that the White House was trying to arrange for Marcos to meet with Vice President Kamala Harris in a sideline meeting during the conference.

The reports did not explain why the White House would be seeking a meeting between Marcos and Harris. It is presumed that US President Joe Biden himself must be getting busier in the run-up to his campaign for re-election in 2024. But I think most people know why such an important meeting is not going to take place at this time.

It had to be only with Kamala Harris that the US wants Marcos to meet. It could be anyone less than Harris because it is a world leaders summit. It would be unbecoming and disrespectful for the United States to present someone not higher than Harris when the president himself is unable to make the meeting himself.

Come to think of it, it is good that Harris is the one logically available for the meeting with Marcos because nothing substantial or significant is expected for such a meeting when, at a different time and opportunity, a meeting between the two countries' leaders would have been very necessary considering the crisis issues they face in the Asia-Pacific region.

Harris, herself term limited unless Biden gets the Democratic nomination and picks her again, is a lame duck. She cannot be expected great commitments on behalf of the US as far as Asia and the Pacific are concerned. At this point in time, it has to be the US president who must make commitments with Marcos as a partner looking forward to 2024 and beyond.

Had Biden been made available, he also has serious health issues confronting his political career that it is not advisable even to his own party leaders to make him meet Marcos and make commitments he might not be able to fulfill. Whether you like it or not, Marcos will be president until 2028 and the US has to deal with him if it wants to see through its interests in the region moving forward.

And that is why it works both ways for Marcos and Harris to meet in meetings that can summon the semi-importance of thunder and lightning but which do not really mean anything or lead up to something. It will be a great show for Marcos' resume and even more so for Harris', whose own credentials are being questioned by colleagues.

On the other hand, the greatest beneficiary of the entire brouhaha will be Marcos. The United States will bend its back to provide him with the acoustics and aesthetics toward making the meeting look important and impressive than it really is. It will be one of the "greatest" foreign trips Marcos shall have ever made in his presidency.

As soon as a next US president is elected next year the entire weight of the situation shifts toward US interests and it will be another American roadshow and spectacle. Marcos will be relegated to mumble concurrencies for US policies that will be at the core of US moves in the region, particularly where Taiwan and the South China Sea issues are concerned.

It will be pretty scary times for those of us who will be in Asia at the time. China is growing stronger, consolidating its strength. Xi Jinping is under a terrific pressure from the communist politburo, he will be required to take action soon. Regardless of where he starts, such action will always have the Philippines in its crosshairs, in the bellybutton.

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