By ROY C. MABASA
U.S. State Department Secretary Antony J. Blinken on Saturday called the Philippines as an “irreplaceable friend, partner and ally” even as he reaffirmed Washington’s ironclad commitment to defend the country under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).
Blinken, who was in the Philippines on a two-day visit, said he is looking forward to deepening US collaboration to advance freedom, prosperity, and security in the region amid the heightening tension brewing in Taiwan Strait.
“The Philippines is an irreplaceable friend, partner and ally to the United States… We share interests, we share values connected by the ties of family and friendship that goes back literally generations,” Blinken said during the press conference after his virtual meeting with Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo.
The joint meeting and press conference between Blinken and Manalo were held virtually after the DFA secretary tested positive for COVID-19 early this week.
During the virtual meet, the US secretary underscored the recent successes of the relationship of the two countries and touched on ways to address common challenges, among them the fight against the pandemic.
The United States has already provided a sustained COVID-19 assistance amounting to US$50 million to help the Philippines’ battle against the pandemic.
Blinken also mentioned that the US has donated more than 30 million vaccines to the country, mostly through the Covax facility “without political strings attached”.
Manalo, for his part, welcomed the possibility of holding joint maritime patrol with the United States in the West Philippine Sea under the ambit of the MDT.
“In our view, joint patrols between the Philippines and the United States can take place, they are under the ambits of the MDT, and also within the context of the Mutual Defense Board and Security Engagement Board,” the DFA secretary said.
The US and the Philippines signed the MDT in August 1952, a pact that highlights each other’s support in case of an external attack.
Manalo also announced that Manila is expecting the visit of two US congressional delegations to Manila in the next two weeks, calling it a positive sign of “growing interest” of American legislators to the new administration in the Philippines.