Biden to host BBM at White House on May 1: ‘We are family’

Presidents Joe Biden and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to discuss human rights, respect for international law in meeting. Facebook photos

President Joe Biden will host Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for a bilateral meeting at the White House on May 1, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre announced on April 20.

“During the visit, Biden will reaffirm the United States’ ironclad commitment to the defense of the Philippines, and the leaders will discuss efforts to strengthen the longstanding U.S.-Philippines alliance,” she said in a statement.

She also said the two leaders will review opportunities to “deepen economic cooperation and promote inclusive prosperity, expand our nations’ special people-to-people ties, invest in the clean energy transition and the fight against climate change, and ensure respect for human rights.”

The two leaders will also discuss regional matters and “coordinate on efforts to uphold international law and promote a free and open Indo-Pacific,” she said further.

Marcos is expected to be in the U.S. from April 30 to May 4.

The meeting with Biden comes two months after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had announced the U.S. and the Philippines will “enhance” military cooperation in a bid to neutralize the growing regional clout of China. Austin disclosed during a visit to Manila on February 2 that Washington and Manila talked about “enhancing our mutual defense posture and strengthening our commitments under our Mutual Defense Treaty.”

Austin said Manila has approved four new EDCA locations, areas where the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement will establish a presence for military training and other related activities. He made clear the U.S. is “not seeking permanent basing sites” in the Philippines.

“EDCA is not about permanent basing here in the Philippines,” said the defense chief. “It’s about providing access that allows us to increase our training opportunities with our partners, our allies here. It’s about having the ability to respond in a more effective fashion as we’re faced — as we’re collectively faced with humanitarian assistance issues or natural — or disaster response issues. And so this is an opportunity to increase our effectiveness, increase interoperability.” A basing treaty will need to be ratified  by the Philippine Senate which could delay any operation should there be the spectacle of grandstanding Filipino lawmakers.

He maintained EDCA as a bilateral agreement involves only “rotational activities” to strengthen the U.S.-Philippine military alliance.

The four new EDCA sites have been identified: Naval Base Camilo Osias in Santa Ana, Cagayan; Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela; Balabac Island in Palawan; and Lal-lo Airport in Cagayan.  This brings to nine the total number of “strategic” locations where joint military training will be conducted, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Austin has stated the United States and the Philippines are “more than just allies; we’re family.” — Cristina DC Pastor

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