Harris to talk about ‘sovereignty, territorial integrity’ in Palawan

Published November 21, 2022, 6:52 AM

by Joseph Pedrajas

United States Vice President Kamala Harris will talk about “principles of sovereignty” in her trip to Palawan, the province closest to the highly-disputed South China Sea, an activity that President Marcos thinks would not generate any problem.

Fresh from economic meetings in Thailand, Harris landed in Manila on Sunday night for a series of activities that will include a visit to the island province on Tuesday, Nov. 22.

There, she will reaffirm the US’ commitment in upholding international rules-based order in the South China Sea and the Indo-Pacific as far as the 2016 Arbitral Ruling, which ruled in favor of the Philippines’ claims over parts of the contested water, is concerned.

Noel Pabalate/MANILA BULLETIN

A senior White House official made this pronouncement on Sunday night (Manila time) as he said “visiting Palawan is an opportunity” for Harris and the US to help its “Philippines allies” with challenges they face.

Despite the ruling, the Philippines is still faced with China’s supposedly illegal reclamation activities in the South China Sea, which include the building of what photos taken from military planes looked like military bases.

Speaking with reporters in an online briefing, the official said Harris’ trip to Palawan will give her the opportunity “to underscore the importance of the rules and the norms” that she “frequently talked about” in the region.

The rules and norms, according to the official, include the “principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and freedom of navigation.”

“She’ll have more to say about this when she visits Palawan,” he said.

For Marcos, Harris’ visit to Palawan would not stoke tension between the Philippines and China, one of the claimants of the South China Sea as the Vice President would be “very clearly (be) on Philippine territory.”

“I don’t think it will cause [a] problem,” the President said in a recent press conference in Thailand.

The first-ever female vice president and the first female highest official of the US, Harris is known for her commitment to US’ support for its allies. In September, she visited the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating North Korea and South Korea to show US commitment to the South’s security.

But this time in Palawan, Harris will not only focus on military matters. According to the senior administration official, her venture to the island province would be part of her of her desire to “just get outside of the capital city,” which is “something she likes to do” every time she visits a country.

“”It’s to underscore the importance of environmental protection. Palawan is a place where fishing communities have been set back by environmental challenges, both from climate change [and] illegal and unreported fishing,” he said.

“And so… the climate crisis has been a theme of the Vice President’s trip… So that’s why she’s going and she’ll have the opportunity to speak publicly about,” he added.

 
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