Philippines-UK relations

‘New development’ in PH-UK ties: Security and defense, says Marcos

Bea Cupin

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‘New development’ in PH-UK ties: Security and defense, says Marcos

President Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos, Jr. meets UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly in Malacañang Palace during a courtesy call on Tuesday, August 29, 2023.

Photos by Yummie Dingding / PPA Pool

James Cleverly, the UK's Foreign Secretary, also visits the Philippine Coast Guard during a one-day trip to Manila

MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said on Tuesday, August 29, that the “evolution” of geopolitics in the volatile Asia Pacific region has meant that the Philippines is turning to new partners for security and defense ties.

“It is not traditional for us to look to Europe for our… to seek alliances and partnerships when it comes to security and defense. But that seems to be the evolution, the geopolitics these days. It is a welcome evolution in my view, and again your visit here I think, is a clear indication of that intent,” said Marcos as the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly paid a call on him in Malacañang Palace.

Cleverly is in Manila for one day. He is the first British Foreign Secretary to visit Manila in over 7 years.

Prior to visiting Marcos in the Palace, Cleverly met with Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo. He also dropped by a Philippine Coast Guard unit to learn about how they “uphold the [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea] and to protect the maritime environment.”

In response, Cleverly said the Philippines and the UK were “very much like-minded, with very, very similar attitudes to world affairs.”

He said that the two nations have “very similar appetites to try and make the most of the bilateral relationship as well as the UK’s focus on Southeast Asia.”

“We’re also reminded of the number of occasions where your country has been supportive of the UK’s positions, so I’d like to thank you for your friendship and your partnership, as a country,” he added.

Marcos and Cleverly first met briefly on the sidelines of King Charles III’s coronation in May 2023.

Cleverly said he was already speaking to other UK officials, including their ambassador in Manila about improving trade ties with the Philippines and investments in the country such as through the UK Export Finance facility. “I know you’re very focused to your country’s response to climate change, renewable energy generation and how you deal with the sad implications of that. And I think once again that’s an area where we can work very, very closely together,” said Cleverly.

The emphasis on security and defense ties, even with “non traditional” countries come as the Philippines has been gathering even more allies amid the rise in regional tensions, which Marcos has called among the most “volatile” – there’s the conflict in the Korean Peninsula, concerns over China’s conflict with Taiwan, and, closer to home, China’s sweeping claims over practically all of the South China Sea. –

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.