MANILA – The Philippines’ economic cooperation with the United States must keep pace with steadily growing defense relations, the country’s top diplomat said.
Speaking at an event hosted by the Asia Society in New York, USA on Sept. 22, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Enrique Manalo reiterated President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr’s call to ensure that the US-Philippine partnership is relevant and responsive to the current and emerging realities in the region.
“We aim to increase two-way trade and investments, especially in critical infrastructure, as strategic and sensitive sectors,” he said in his speech, a copy of which was forwarded by the DFA on Saturday.
He also hoped that the first ever US Presidential Trade and Investment Mission visiting the Philippines in 2024 will foster public and private partnerships and generate big ticket projects.
On defense, he said the Philippine-US alliance should continue to support Manila’s efforts to enhance its capabilities and build a credible deterrent against challenges to its sovereignty and territory.
He cited four additional Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement sites where both Philippine and US forces have access for the conduct of joint activities, especially training exercises in connection with humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
The Philippine-US Mutual Defense Board and Security Engagement Board, led by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the US Indo-Pacific Command, also met in Manila recently to finalize plans and proposals for various types of maritime domain awareness and intelligence-sharing activities.
Manalo pointed out that the Philippines continues to face challenges with sovereign rights and jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea, including recent incidents involving the Chinese Coast Guard and maritime militia vessels.
“Anxieties on geopolitical tensions should not detract or prevent the region from the pursuit of economic prosperity and development. My region, Southeast Asia, is currently ahead of the global curve in post- pandemic recovery and we are committed to maintain this momentum,” he said.
He said the Philippines will continue to take a diplomatic approach and deal with China through peaceful means.
“This is the period where our alliance and comprehensive strategic partnership with the United States has been growing,” he said. “And working together, including with other like- minded countries in our region and in other regions, we hope to certainly build up a strong foundation for cooperation on the basis of international law.” (PNA)