US Vice President Kamala Harris completed a two-day visit to the Philippines on Tuesday with the goal of resetting bilateral relations. On Monday, she met with her Philippine counterpart, Sara Duterte-Carpio, before meeting with Philippines President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr. On Tuesday, Harris gave an important speech to the Philippine Coast Guard in the southern province of Palawan.
Enhanced defence co-operation
Following six years of strained relations under former Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, Harris reiterated the U.S.’s “unwavering commitment” to defend the Philippines, should it be attacked, under Article 4 of the 1951 U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty. Harris also announced a series of new initiatives designed to deepen the security alliance between both countries. The U.S., for example, announced an investment of C$85M under its Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) to build and modernize military sites in the Philippines.
Security at the expense of human rights?
As the U.S. is courting partners to counter China’s increasingly aggressive behaviour toward Taiwan and in the South China Sea, security ties with the Philippines are set to expand and improve. Bumps on the road, however, could arise. In addition to trade and security matters, Harris also reportedly raised the importance of human rights, democratic principles, and freedom of the press in her discussion with Marcos Jr., key talking points for the U.S., but issues that complicated relations with the Philippines under Duterte.