Newly-installed US President Joseph “Joe” Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris (Photos courtesy of Anadolu)

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has sent his best wishes to newly-installed United States (US) President Joseph “Joe” Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, Malacañang said on Thursday.

“Our President Rodrigo Roa Duterte sends his warmest greetings and the best wishes to 46th president of the United States, Joseph ‘Joe’ Biden and to his Vice President, Kamala Harris,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a virtual presser.

Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the US on Wednesday.

Roque said he was unaware whether Duterte will make a phone call with Biden to congratulate the US leader on winning the presidency.

It could be recalled that Duterte congratulated former US president Donald Trump through a phone conversation on Dec. 3, 2016, or even before the inauguration of Biden’s predecessor.

Malacañang, nevertheless, has expressed confidence that Duterte will gain friendship with Biden.

Roque said Biden’s inauguration is proof that the US has “deep” roots in democracy.

“And today, it has reassured the world that its people remain committed to peaceful electoral transitions and the noble principles of representative democracy,” he said.

In a separate statement, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar was optimistic that the friendship between Duterte and Biden would bloom, especially amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

“As we continue to mutually uphold our mutual interests, especially our collective fight against and recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, may this new chapter in American politics and society continue to promote the long-standing and strategic relationship of the Philippines with the United States,” Andanar said.

Biden’s top priorities are to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, provide economic relief, tackle climate change, advance racial equity and civil rights, reform the US’ immigration system, and restore the powerful nation’s standing in the world, according to the official website of the White House.

Andanar offered best wishes to the Biden administration.

“May the Biden administration deliver policies and priorities that promote the interests of the American people and embody the ideals of democracy,” he said.

Keeping the ‘long-standing’ partnership’

The Philippines is one of the US’ oldest Asian partners. It is also the oldest security ally of the US in Southeast Asia.

Biden’s presidency came amid the uncertain status of the Philippines’ Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US.

The Philippines formally notified the US about its intent to revoke the VFA in February 2020. However, the VFA remains in effect after Duterte ordered on June 1 last year the suspension of VFA termination “in light of political and other developments in the region.”

The VFA, a 1998 military pact between Manila and the Washington, authorized American troops who are participating in joint military drills to visit the Philippines sans passport and visa.

Roque was optimistic that Us and Philippines’ long-standing partnership will be maintained under the Biden administration.

“We in the Philippines look forward to continuing our long-standing partnership with the United States, in working together for a freer, more peaceful world,” he said.

Roque also expressed confidence that Biden “will wear his new mantle of leadership with pride and with due regard for the hopes and aspirations of the rest of the world.”

Protecting national interests

While the Philippines expects warm ties with Biden, it would continue protecting its national interests as part of Duterte’s independent foreign policy, Roque said.

“Ang Presidente po ay sinusulong ang independiyenteng panlabas na relasyon na ang inuuna po ay interes ng ating bayan at ng mga sambayanang Pilipino (The President is pursuing an independent foreign policy to protect the interests of the country and its citizenry),” he said.

Roque said the Philippines also expects the US to do the same.

“Ganoon din po ang mga Amerikano. Isusulong nila ang kanilang pang-national na interes. (Americans will do that as well. They are will also protect their national interests,” he said. (PNA)