The Honorable Antony Blinken, Secretary of State of the United States of America;
Our friends from the media, both local and the U.S. traveling press corps;
Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon to all of you.
It is with great pleasure that I address you today, albeit only on this virtual platform.
Secretary Blinken and I just held our first meeting since I assumed my post as Secretary of Foreign Affairs. This is also the Secretary’s first visit to the Philippines, and the first of a U.S. Secretary of State since March 2019.
What stood out from our discussion was our resounding commitment to sustaining the positive momentum and trajectory of Philippines-U.S. relations. Secretary Blinken and I talked extensively about the alliance between our two countries. We also discussed the steps we can take to build on our two-way high-level engagements over the past year, including the 9th Bilateral Strategic Dialogue last November, where we adopted the Joint Vision for a 21st Century Philippine-United States Partnership.
We agreed to work together over the next couple of months in firming up opportunities for our Presidents for a possible meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York next month, as well as a possible visit by President Marcos to Washington DC, their schedules permitting, in response to an open invitation extended by President Biden.
In November, we look forward to hosting here in Manila the 10th Bilateral Strategic Dialogue, where we hope to advance our discussions on the full range of political, security, and economic cooperation between our two countries. We also agreed to reconvene the 2+2 Ministerial Meeting in early 2023 to further cement the outcomes of these and earlier defense and strategic engagements and the ensuing action plans and initiatives.
We look to strengthening our cooperation to better address current and emerging security threats and cross-cutting challenges. We welcome the U.S. government’s assurances of their readiness to work closely with the new Philippine Administration, recognizing the Philippines as the United States’ equal, sovereign partner in advancing our shared objective of promoting peace and prosperity in the region.
We acknowledged the significant challenges we face and the amount of work that still needs to be done in post-pandemic recovery.
The Philippines is grateful for the substantial and critical support of the U.S in our COVID-19 response and recovery efforts. The over 33.6 million donated vaccine doses to date is the largest we have received from a single country partner and these have saved millions of lives and supported our economy and health system. We hope the U.S. will extend its support to also facilitate investments and capacity building for our local vaccine development, manufacturing and distribution industry.
I echoed the message of President Marcos on the imperative of attracting capital-intensive investments in infrastructure, as well as to mitigate the effects of the food security issues arising from climate change and the conflict in Ukraine.
We recognize the important role that the U.S. can play in ensuring that developing countries like ours can have access to key commodities, including fertilizers. We agreed to continue our discussions on how we can cooperate on accessing fertilizers at lower prices for our farmers, as well as technology that will allow us to modernize and make agriculture in the Philippines more efficient, cost-effective and climate-smart.
In line with the greater push towards economic cooperation between our two countries, we agreed to flesh out further opportunities for enhanced cooperation that would support efforts to promote resilient supply chains, health systems, and infrastructures, as well as opportunities to collaborate in marine resource management and clean energy, particularly nuclear energy. We will do so bilaterally and within the context of the United States-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), where the Philippines is a country partner.
Finally, we touched on the very foundation of our partnership: our common values and shared commitment to democracy, the rule of law, and human rights.
Recognizing that democracy, whether in the Philippines or the U.S. will always be a work in progress, we agreed to maintain open lines of communication for discussing human rights issues. To demonstrate our commitment to dialogue on this matter, I announced today the designation of DFA Undersecretary Ma. Theresa P. Lazaro as the Philippines’ representative to the Focal Group preparing for the 2nd U.S.-led Summit for Democracy to be hosted by President Biden in early 2023.
Our request made to our American partners is to actively contribute to cultivating a constructive environment, within the UN Human Rights Council. Recognizing the importance of financial and technical assistance to support national institutions in the areas of human rights, I urged Secretary Blinken to support Philippine work in the UN Joint Program.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Secretary Blinken for this visit. Indeed, from our meeting, it is clear we are allies, partners and friends.