Philippines-US relations

Blinken’s second Manila visit: Spotlight on trade, investment 

Bea Cupin

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Blinken’s second Manila visit: Spotlight on trade, investment 

SECRETARY OF STATE. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers remarks at the release of the 2023 Trafficking in Persons Report at the State Department in Washington, DC, USA, on June 15, 2023.

Sarah Silbiger/REUTERS

Manila is the last stop in a three-country hop for the US State Secretary

MANILA, Philippines – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to visit the Philippines from March 18 to 19, the Philippine embassy in Washington DC and the US State Department said in separate announcements early morning Friday, March 15. 

The visit will be his second to Manila. He first came to the Philippines in August 2022, just months after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. started his term. 

In a statement, the Philippine Embassy said Blinken will be meeting with Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo “to discuss the notable progress in bilateral ties and the shared commitment to further strengthen the Philippines-United States alliance in pursuit of common interests.”

The State Department also said Blinken will be meeting with Marcos himself. 

The Manila stop is the last in a series of trips for the US Secretary of State. He will be in Vienna, Austria first to lead the American delegation for the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs’ High-Level Segment. Blinken is then set to visit South Korea to attend the third Summit for Democracy, a US-led gathering that’s being hosted in Seoul. 

Of his three trips, it’s only the Manila stop that isn’t for a summit or a multilateral gathering. 

Based on releases from the US and Manila’s post in Washington, his second visit to the Philippines will focus on economic ties between the treaty allies. 

“Among the range of key issues to be tackled, the broadening and deepening of cooperation in the economic sphere will be high on the agenda. Discussions will highlight efforts to promote trade and investments and a common resolve to sustain economic resiliency as an essential component of national security,” said the Philippine embassy in a release. 

The State Department frames Blinken’s meetings in Manila as a way to “advance shared economic priorities and underscore the United States’ ironclad commitment to the US-Philippine alliance.”

Deepening Philippine-US ties 

Blinken’s visit comes on the heels of US Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo’s visit to Manila as head a first-of-its-kind US Presidential Trade and Investment Mission.

In May, Manila will be co-host to the US-led Indo-Pacific Business Forum.

The trade mission and Manila’s co-hosting of the forum were first announced when Marcos visited Washington in May 2023 – his first official working visit to the US capital as chief executive. 

The Philippine President has made three visits to the US – first to attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York in 2022, the Washington DC visit in 2023, then again in late 2023 for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit and a side visit to Hawaii. 

The Philippines is a US treaty ally. Three defense agreements, in particular, inform the relationship between Manila and its former colonizer: a Mutual Defense Treaty, a Visiting Forces Agreement, and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. 

The US’ promises to deepen economic ties with the Philippines is backdropped by Marcos’ desire to be closer to Washington. It’s a stark contrast to his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte, who threatened to sever long-standing agreements with the US as he pivoted to China. 

Marcos, meanwhile, has taken a considerably more assertive stance on China, especially when it comes to pushing back against Beijing’s claims in the West Philippine Sea. 

China is, expectedly, not enthused by the growing closeness of Manila and Washington. Beijing has even accused the US of being behind the Philippines’ more assertive actions in the West Philippine Sea, or parts of the South China Sea within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. 

Reacting to Secretary Raimondo’s statements on possibly expanding export controls to stop China from acquiring semiconductor technology, the Chinese Embassy in Manila criticized the US for “economic bullying.” 

The deepening of Washington and Manila ties has also led to expanding cooperation with neighbors in the Indo-Pacific. 

Earlier media reports suggested that a trilateral meeting between Manalo, Blinken, and Japan Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa would happen in Manila, but Manalo told Filipino reporters in Berlin that Kamikawa had yet to confirm her attendance. 

Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun earlier reported that a meeting between Blinken, Marcos, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida would be happening in Washington in April 2024. Philippine government sources said that while plans have yet to be finalized, that high-level meeting is practically certain to happen. 

Back in September 2023, on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit, Marcos met informally with Kishida and US Vice President Kamala Harris. –

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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.