by: April Princess Closa || Photo Credit: Rappler
In an effort to bolster the US-Philippines alliance, US Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to the Philippines for a three-day official trip from November 20 to 22, making her the highest-ranking US official to visit the country under the Marcos administration.
Harris arrived on Sunday night, November 20, after participating in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Bangkok, Thailand.
On Monday, November 21, she met with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Vice President Sara Duterte. During the talk, Harris underscored the mutual commitment of the US-PH alliance regarding economic prosperity and the climate crisis in the country. She also stressed the mutual concerns regarding security for the region and highlighted the US’ commitment to the Philippines concerning the South China Sea dispute.
“We stand with you, in defense of international rules and norms as it relates to the South China Sea; and armed attack on the Philippines, armed forces, public vessels, or aircrafts in the South China Sea would invoke US mutual defense commitments. And that is an unwavering commitment that we have to the Philippines,” Harris stated.
According to the White House, the Vice President emphasized the importance of human rights, which encompassed press freedom and freedom of expression, as well as the importance of reinforcing democratic principles. These matters were also discussed in her talk with 16th Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, in addition to discussions about the strength of the US-PH alliance, education policy in the country, skills training and internet connectivity, and economic partnership and investment ties.
Harris also connected with Filipino activists, where she expressed solidarity in support of human rights and democracy. She also held a quick town hall with young Filipino women regarding gender equality and women empowerment.
To conclude her stay in the country, the US Vice President visited Tagburos village in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, where she delivered a speech aboard the Philippine Coast Guard’s BRP Teresa Magbanua, situated along the highly disputed South China Sea. She acknowledged the fisheries of Palawan as the “economic lifeblood” of the island, highlighting the threat of illegal fishing on the livelihood of local fishers. Furthermore, she emphasized the US-PH alliance by pledging defense against unlawful behavior in the region and reaffirming the US’ commitment to upholding international laws to protect lives and coastal ecosystems.
“The United States-Philippines alliance is strong. We are committed to you. We are committed to your success. And to all the lives and livelihoods that rely on your work,” Harris expressed.