Manila Bulletin : New PH-US relations

By Senator Francis Tolentino | Manila Bulletin


The transmitted partial and unofficial returns as of May 11 reflect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. as the winner of the 2022 Presidential elections by a landslide. Meanwhile, on May 5, Thursday, the United States (US) Senate confirmed the appointment of MaryKay Loss Carlson as the next US ambassador to the Philippines. She is to succeed chargé d’affaires, John Law, who held the post from October 2020 to September 2021.

Carlson’s appointment is in time for the conclusion of the May 2022 Philippine elections. A new President and a new US ambassador to the Philippines would bring a renewed Philippine-US (PH-US) relation. As with any beginning of a new administration, the emerging victor will re-shape the country’s relations in the international community, including the US.

In the East Asia Summit held in Oct. 27, 2021, US President Biden revealed his administration’s focus on solidifying relations in the Indo-Pacific region. In his words: “We envision an Indo-Pacific that is open, connected, prosperous, resilient, and secure – and we are ready to work together with each of you to achieve it.”

China’s assertive territorial claims over the West Philippine Sea in recent years, resulted to the Biden administration’s strategic move towards further strengthening its alliances in the region and renewing its commitment under existing treaties.

In fact, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the US military conducted Balikatan exercises this year until April 8, with numbers reaching 9,000 Philippine navy, marines, air force, and army troops, including 5,100 American military personnel. These Balikatan exercises are anchored on the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and the US, which provided for a post-World War II security partnership.

The PH-US diplomatic relation was established in 1946, marking its 76th anniversary this year. The 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty was later enhanced by the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement and the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement – treaties that remain key pillars to the PH-US security relations. Notably, there also exists the Manila Pact or the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, signed in 1954, which is still recognized by the US Department of State as a collective defense treaty that remains in force.

In 2021, the 9th PH-US Bilateral Strategic Dialogue was held, wherein the joint vision for the 21st century bilateral relations was established. Here, the US reaffirmed its commitment of military and defense support to the Philippines and reiterated its support of our claim against China, among others.

As of date, political analysts continue to speculate on the policy and inclination of the frontrunner, Marcos, Jr., on the PH-US partnership and the geopolitical tensions with China. Unbeknownst to some – how the US chooses to respond to the Philippines’ new administration and new President would be a more telling revelation of the trend in the PH-US relations moving forward.