President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the visit of US Vice President Kamala Harris to Palawan, the province nearest to the West Philippine Sea, on Tuesday should not stoke tension between the Philippines and China.
“No. I don’t see why they should. She is in the Philippines and she is visiting another part of the Philippines,” Mr. Marcos said in an interview with reporters on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Bangkok on Saturday.
“Of course, it is the closest area to the South China Sea but it’s very clearly on Philippine territory. I don’t think it will cause problems,” he added.
Harris told Asian leaders attending the APEC Summit that the United States is committed to the region for the long haul, rejecting doubts about its engagement as China expands its clout.
She called the United States a “proud Pacific power” and said that the longstanding US network of security alliances has allowed Asia to prosper.
“The United States is here to stay,” Harris told business leaders on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, also attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“Our message is clear: The United States has an enduring economic commitment to the Indo-Pacific, one that is measured not in years, but in decades and generations,” she said, using the preferred US term for the Asia-Pacific region.
Harris, who is scheduled to arrive in Manila today, will be the highest-ranking American official to visit the western island province adjacent to the disputed Spratly Islands in a show of support to the Philippines.
The Philippine Coast Guard’s BRP Teresa Magbanua (MRRV-9701) will welcome Harris in her scheduled visit in Puerto Princesa City.
“US Vice President Harris would receive a briefing on the Coast Guard’s current maritime operations in Palawan. This will occur after the vessel tour onboard one of the two biggest PCG vessels to date,” said PCG Spokesperson Commodore Armando Balilo.
Manila announced earlier Tuesday that Washington would spend $66.5 million to start building training and warehouse facilities at three of its military bases there under a 2014 joint security deal.
China has fortified parts of disputed Spratlys, which are also being claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam aside from the Philippines.
The 58-year-old Harris will meet President Marcos and Vice President Sara Duterte today (Monday).