President Biden to host Philippines leader Ferdinand Marcos Jr amid growing tensions with China

US President Joe Biden takes part in a bilateral meeting with Philippines President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos, Jr. in New York, New York, US, September 22, 2022. Reuters/File

Washington: President Joe Biden will host Philippines President Ferdinand R Marcos Jr in the White House next month. The two leaders will discuss ways to strengthen bilateral relations amid US tensions with China over Taiwan.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that Biden will emphasise Washington’s “ironclad commitment to the defense of the Philippines, and the leaders will discuss efforts to strengthen the longstanding US-Philippines alliance.”

The announcement to host Marcos Jr comes weeks after the US and the Philippines conducted the largest-ever joint military exercise in the disputed South China Sea in the face of China’s growing assertiveness in the region, particularly over Taiwan, the self-governing island it claims as its own.

Last week, the US secretaries of Defense and State met with their Philippine counterparts in Washington in a high-level summit, days after the US gained greater military access in the Philippines.

Referring to China’s three-day Chinese military exercise that simulated a blockage and targeted strikes against Taiwan, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said that there is “a troubling increase in coercion and dangerous operational behavior.”

Other topics of discussion between Biden and Marcos will include economic cooperation, clean energy and respect for human rights, according to a White House statement.

“The two leaders will also discuss regional matters and coordinate efforts to uphold international law and promote a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the statement said.

Last week, Manila, the capital of the Philippines, announced four more locations for the US military’s use on top of the five that have already been agreed upon under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

China cautioned that an expanded military deal between the Philippines and the US could endanger regional peace while accusing America of a “zero-sum mentality.”

EDCA is an agreement between the Philippines and the US that allows the latter to access a selected number of military bases on Filipino land on a rotational basis. The locations are nominated by the government of the Philippines.

Under EDCA terms, the US is authorised to access facilities like runways, fuel storage, and military housing.

As mentioned before, both countries inked a deal to increase the number of military bases the US can use. A statement released by EDCA read, “The United States and the Philippines have stood shoulder-to-shoulder as friends and allies for more than seven decades, unwavering in our treaty commitments and our shared vision for a more peaceful, secure, and prosperous region.”

With inputs from agencies

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