Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Top US official to meet with president-elect Marcos

Sofia Tomacruz
Top US official to meet with president-elect  Marcos

TOP OFFICIAL. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman speaks at the State Department in Washington, DC, US on August 18, 2021.

File photo by Andrew Harnik/Reuters

United States Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is expected to meet with president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and senior members of both the Duterte and Marcos administrations

MANILA, Philippines – United States Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman is scheduled to meet with president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. during an ongoing nine-day trip to Asia, making her the first top official from Washington to meet with incoming Philippine leader. 

The latest Asia tour of Sherman, the No. 2 official at the State Department, comes on the heels of President Joe Biden’s first trip to the region, the Quad’s summit in Japan, and a rare summit between the US and leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations last month. 

“The Deputy Secretary’s travel to the region reflects the United States’ continued commitment to the Indo-Pacific,” the State Department said last Friday, June 3. 

During her visit from June 5 to 14, Sherman will stop by the Deputy Secretary’s travel to the region reflects the United States’ continued commitment to the Indo-Pacific 

The State Department said that in Manila, Sherman will meet with Marcos, as well as senior members of both the Duterte and Marcos administrations, for discussions on ways to deepen ties between the two countries. 

Although welcoming “any” economic assistance from Washington, Marcos earlier said he wanted boost trade ties with the US, instead of a “dependence on aid.” The incoming leader likewise expressed interest in the recently launched, US-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, as well as openness to the possibility of public-private partnerships and join ventures between Philippine and American companies.

“Trade, not aid. Balik pa din tayo doon  (We go back to that),” Marcos said after a meeting with US Chargé d’Affaires Heather Variava in late May. 

An incoming Marcos presidency comes after six turbulent years between Manila and Washington, during which President Rodrigo Duterte often expressed his dislike for the US and railed against the perceived interference of American lawmakers criticizing his bloody anti-illegal drug campaign. 

While moving closer to China, Duterte had terminated the Visiting Forces Agreement – a key military deal between the Philippines and the US – although he later took this back, twice deciding to delay its abrogation and eventually restoring the pact after negotiations led to a technical side agreement on the issue of custody of troops.

Marcos’s spokesman Vic Rodriguez earlier gave assurances that the Philippines’ relationship with the US under a Marcos presidency “will be better.” In a call with Biden last May 12, Marcos also told the American leader that he was prepared to work the US to strengthen its relationship with the Philippines. 

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While keeping the country’s alliance with the US, Marcos said he would also continue warm relations with China ushered in by Duterte. Marcos likewise said he’d continue bilateral talks on the South China Sea dispute with Beijing, and vowed to uphold the Philippines’ 2016 arbitral award that validated its rights in the West Philippine Sea.

In Manila, Sherman is also expected to attend a business roundtable and an event in celebration of World Oceans Day. 

Aside from Marcos, Sherman is scheduled to meet with other top officials in the region including Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin, Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Mori Takeo, Laos Deputy Prime Minister Kikeo Khaykhamphithoune, and Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Le Van Thanh and Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.