Metro Manila, September 23 ------ President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. held a bilateral meeting with United States President Joe Biden in New York City at the sidelines of the 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), discussing a wide variety of issues, including the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
In their short meeting, Biden expressed his intention of having an in-depth discussion with Marcos on the Philippines' territorial dispute with China. “I expect we’ll discuss the South China Sea and disputes in a critical global throughway," he told Marcos. "I’ve spent a lot of time with — not only the President of China but others about the international waters and how they have to be respected. And we should talk about that a little bit, I hope.”
Washington recently accused Beijing of increased provocations against its rival claimants in the South China Sea despite the landmark arbitration ruling in 2016 rejecting China's nine-dash claim to almost the entire South China Sea. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken even committed to uphold the Mutual Defense Treaty, which states that both countries would assist each other when either of them is attacked by a foreign force. Marcos, in response, expressed a similar sentiment, but emphasized that the country's path on the sea dispute is to preserve peace. “In terms of the geopolitical issues that we face in this day and age, the primary consideration of the Philippines and the guiding principle of the Philippine foreign policy is to encourage peace,” he told Biden. “I hope that we will be able to discuss further the roles that our two countries will play together and individually as we continue down that road, maintaining peace despite all of the complexities that have arisen in the past few months, I suppose,” Marcos added. He also called on the members of UN to resolve disputes “through reason and right” amid tensions in the WPS.
Marcos, in his first UNGA speech, underscored the country's commitment to the rule of law by saying it upholds the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The President also reiterated that the Philippines is "a friend to all and enemy to none." Beijing continues to assert its maritime claims despite the 2016 Hague ruling that invalidated them. The Philippines has lodged over 200 diplomatic protests against China's incursion in parts of the West Philippine Sea during the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte.
The US chief executive briefly mentioned the topics he wants to discuss at length with Marcos, including COVID-19 recovery, energy security, renewable energy, and human rights. Biden also showed gratitude for the Philippines' position on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, citing further talks on how it is impacting energy and food prices for both countries. “For decades, the alliance has strengthened both of us, I believe," he told Marcos. "And one of the things I want to talk about today is how we continue to strengthen that and work together on the things that are of greatest concern to you." Marcos, in return, also thanked his US counterpart for Washington's support amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He cited the millions of doses of vaccines donated by the US. “We feel that we are especially fortunate because we have a very strong foundation of a very long relationship and the strong relationships on various facets not only political, not only diplomatic, but also economic,” the Philippine leader said.
In his week-long visit for the UNGA, Marcos addressed the New York Stock Exchange (PHT) with much optimism that the Philippines and the United States will work to build a stronger economic relationship during his term. During the meeting, Biden first thanked Marcos and acknowledged the “deeply-rooted” ties between the two nations. “The relationship between the United States and the Philippines, to state the obvious, has very deep roots," the US president said. "We’ve had some rocky times, but the fact is it’s a critical, critical relationship, from our perspective," he added. "I hope you feel the same way.” Biden also cited millions of Filipino Americans and said they “desperately” want both nations to continue their foundation and maintain a strong relationship.
To end their meeting, Marcos assured Biden of a strong US-Philippine alliance. “We are your partners. We are your allies. We are your friends," Marcos said. "And in like fashion, we have always considered the United States our partner, our ally, and our friend,” he also said. Marcos was accompanied during the meeting by House Speaker Martin Romualdez, and presidential son and Ilocos Rep. Ferdinand Alexander "Sandro" Marcos III.