Philippines-US relations

Marcos to visit US Indo-Pacific Command during Hawaii trip

Bea Cupin

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Marcos to visit US Indo-Pacific Command during Hawaii trip

JOINT DRILLS. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. attends the Balikatan exercises of Filipino and American troops, at Naval Station Leovigildo Gantioqui in San Antonio, Zambales, on April 26, 2023.

Yummie Dingding/PPA

A visit to the United States Indo-Pacific Command would be yet another clear message from Manila that it intends to forge even closer ties with the US, its treaty ally

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino community events aren’t the only thing on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s itinerary when he visits Hawaii in November, following a stop in San Francisco for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit and a stop in Los Angeles.

The Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed on Tuesday, November 7, that Marcos will also be visiting the United States Indo-Pacific Command, one of the US military’s combatant commands that covers the vast Indo-Pacific, including waters and airspace adjacent to the Philippines.

“It adds a layer to the cooperation that we are trying to establish with like-minded states in order to promote what we have been advocating all along – a rules-based order especially in the maritime areas,” said DFA Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and International Economic Relations Charles Jose in a briefing hosted by Malacañang.

Jose said Marcos will be visiting at the invitation of the Indo-Pacific Command.

Marcos will be flying to the United States on November 14 to attend the APEC Summit, which starts on November 12. He is then set to visit Los Angeles and Hawaii, where the Marcos clan fled to after his dictator father was ousted from power in 1986.

Marcos will also be visiting the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies for a roundtable discussion, added Jose.

It will be Marcos’ third visit to the US during his presidency and his second trip there in 2023. He flew to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly in September 2022. Then in May 2023, Marcos flew to Washington for an official working visit, which included a bilateral meeting with US President Joe Biden at the White House.

The Indo-Pacific Command, or USINDOPACOM, is the US military’s biggest unified geographic combatant command. According to its official website, it “covers more of the globe of any of the other geographic combatant commands and shares borders with all of the other five geographic combatant commands.”

Its commander reports directly to the United States president through the US defense secretary and has under it several component and sub-unified commands in the region, including US forces in South Korea and Japan.

Units under the Indo-Pacific Command usually train with Filipino soldiers during Balikatan, the biggest yearly joint exercise between US and Philippine forces, alongside troops from other US units and partner countries.

A visit to the Indo-Pacific Command would be yet another clear message from Manila that it intends to forge even closer ties with the United States, its treaty ally.

During his visit to Washington, Marcos met with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon. The Philippines and the US also released new guidelines on their decades-old Mutual Defense Treaty. Earlier in the year, the Philippines announced it was opening more military bases to American troops via the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Marcos has also been shoring up ties with other powers in the region. The Philippines and Japan, during Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s recent official visit to Manila, announced they would start talks to allow troop deployments for joint exercises.

There is an emerging trilateral cooperation in the region, too, which focuses on defense and security – between the US, Japan, and the Philippines.

These moves come as China steps up its aggressive actions in the South China Sea, a waterway where trillions in trade pass through every year.

The Mutual Defense Treaty, alongside the Visiting Forces Agreement and the EDCA, define Manila and Washington’s defense ties. US officials have repeatedly affirmed that the treaty can be invoked in case of an attack on Philippine vessels in 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.