By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Malacañang said that the supposed meeting of Philippine officials with the United States Pacific Command (PACOM) chief is possibly meant to assure that the country has not abandoned its long-standing ties with the world superpower.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque issued the statement after it was reported that Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea met with retiring PACOM chief Admiral Harry Harris Jr. in Honolulu, Hawaii, over the weekend.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said over the weekend that the two allied countries have renewed their commitment to strengthen ties.
“The Philippines and the United States have reaffirmed their firm resolve to bolster their enduring alliance anchored on common values and interest, historic ties, and the Mutual Defense Treaty, in high-level discussions in Honolulu,” the DFA said in a statement.
“The Philippine delegation had a very substantive exchange with Admiral Harris on regional challenges and both sides agreed that the alliance remains consequential to the preservation of regional stability and development,” it added.
Joining Medialdea in the meeting were Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior Officer-in-Charge Eduardo Año, and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Teodoro Locsin Jr.
While no other information was handed to him, Roque said, he can say that the meeting aimed at reassuring the US that the Philippines is not abandoning its traditional ally despite the Philippines’ growing friendship with China.
“I can only surmise that the visit is intended to reassure the United States that while we are pursuing an independent foreign policy, we have not actually abandoned our traditional ally, the United States, that it’s probably to reassure that we value the continued friendship and security cooperation we have had with the United States throughout the years,” Roque said Monday.
“While we are becoming independent in our foreign relations, we still give importance to our friendship with the Americans,” he added.
The DFA said that the issue in the South China Sea was among those discussed during the meeting.
“On the South China Sea, the DFA said the Philippine delegation underscored that the deliberate and nuanced diplomacy by the Duterte administration had lowered tensions in the region and resulted in clear economic gains for the Philippines in terms of access to marine resources, protection of the marine ecology, and the potential to explore oil and gas resources,” it said.
The high-level meeting following reports that China has installed missiles and landed a bomber in the disputed waters.