Remarks by Secretary Enrique A. Manalo at the Opening of the Bilateral Meeting with Secretary Antony J. Blinken

First, Mr. Secretary, welcome to the Philippines and to the Department of Foreign Affairs, even though it is virtual. I am glad that you did find the opportunity and time to come here to Manila, especially after attending the very hectic ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh. It is unfortunate that I had to miss the AMM, but I hope I will have opportunities again to meet my colleagues in the ASEAN.

I am pleased to continue our conversation from our phone call about a month ago, albeit virtually. I look forward to working closely with you in infusing even more vigor into our bilateral relations.

I understand we are also expecting two other Congressional delegations over the next 2 weeks—a positive sign, I hope, of the interest of the U.S. legislators to start off on the right foot with the new Philippine administration.

The Philippines continues to look to the big powers to calm the waters and keep the peace. We can ill afford further escalation of tensions in the region. We already face significant challenges as we work to get our economy back on track and better especially after the COVID-19 pandemic.

We all know that no one country will be able to do this on its own. We look to the United States as an important ally, partner and friend as we chart the path forward.

Thank you.