U.S. Pacific Fleet commander visits Philippines
MANILA, Philippines – The commander of the US Pacific Fleet, Admiral Scott Swift, visited the Philippines and met with key officials of the Duterte administration, the US embassy said Wednesday, June 14.
Swift was in the Philippines from June 11 to 14 "to reaffirm the US Navy's strong partnership and ties with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)," the US embassy added.
The US Pacific Fleet commander met with Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, AFP Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año, and Philippine Navy chief Vice Admiral Ronald Mercado.
"The Philippine Navy is a valued and enduring ally of the US Navy and a close partner of the Pacific Fleet," Swift explained.
"We continue to build on the strong relationship we have and to reaffirm our commitment to working together to face shared challenges," he added.
Swift's visit comes as President Rodrigo Duterte moves away from the US – which had been the Philippines' traditional ally – and closer to China and Russia in a bid for an "independent foreign policy."
The Philippines, however, remains locked in a dispute with its newfound ally, China, over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Aside from Swift, another high-ranking foreign official visited the Philippines on Tuesday, June 13.
Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan was also in the Philippines on Tuesday, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.
Cayetano and Balakrishnan "reviewed the state of Philippines-Singapore bilateral relations and discussed pressing areas of concern in the region," the DFA said, without elaborating.
The Philippines and Singapore will mark 50 years of diplomatic relations by 2019. – Rappler.com