In a previous column, we pointed out that the meeting on May 1 between President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and US President Joe Biden in the White House was significant as it marked the resumption of warm bilateral relations between the two countries.
This came after the previous administration kept the Americans at arm’s length while cozying up to China for expected investments that came mostly in trickles.
Now, with Washington eager to enhance cooperation in the economic and defense spheres, as well as in renewable energy and climate change mitigation efforts, there’s ample reason to believe that bilateral ties are likely to get closer in the coming five years, and perhaps even beyond.
Over-all bilateral relations
The United States and the Philippines have “significantly strengthened” their alliance, as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken described it.
He pointed out how the two countries have launched new initiatives together to create economic opportunities for Americans and Filipinos.
He cited, for instance, how trade between the two nations hit a “new record” with more than $25 billion.
Working with their Filipino counterparts, US officials, Blinken said, had taken steps to modernize security alliances “so that our forces can work even closer together despite natural disasters.”
For his part, House Speaker Martin Romualdez said the Marcos visit managed to strengthen security and economic cooperation and long-standing ties between the two nations.
This, he said, would give momentum to sustain the country’s economic growth and help establish the Philippines as a hub for investments and as a regional supply chain hub that would generate more jobs and business opportunities for Filipinos.
The Marcos visit yielded some $1.3 billion in investment pledges from various American companies that could generate over 6,700 local jobs.
The new US investments cover a broad range of industries, such as agriculture, pharmaceuticals, clean energy, health care, business process management, electric vehicle industries and digital infrastructure.
The two countries also agreed to create a minister-level team on agricultural cooperation as the Marcos administration ramps up efforts to attain food security.
The goal is to strengthen research and development in the agricultural sector.
At the same time, the US Agency for International Development seeks to boost its infrastructure development aid to the Philippines by leveraging over $3 billion in public and private financing to support the construction of high-quality railways, ports, and transport systems.
The funds will also strengthen the Philippines’ critical mineral supply chains, advance smart grid technologies and clean energy solutions, promote secure 5G deployment, strengthen airport security and maritime safety, and support healthcare infrastructure across the Philippines.
The US is taking concrete steps to show its resolve to help the Philippines defend its territory in the South China Sea by providing military vessels and aircraft to the Armed Forces of the Philippines to help in its modernization.
These include two Island-class patrol vessels, two Protector-class patrol vessels, and three C-130H transport aircraft.
These are on top of the two Cyclone-class patrol vessels transferred to the Philippines in late March and are on their way to Manila.
The Philippines and the US have also adopted Bilateral Defense Guidelines that would spell out priorities for interoperability systems in land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace.
The two countries have also committed to expand collaboration on renewable energy production and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in response to the threat of a climate crisis, since the Philippines is vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
The United States and the Philippines will also pursue an ambitious program of cooperation on wind, solar, and geothermal energy, while enhancing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Meanwhile, a nuclear power firm has expressed interest to invest in the Philippines.
Oregon-based NuScale Power Corp is planning to conduct a study to pinpoint a site in the Philippines.
The firm has developed small modular reactor technology (SMR), described as safe, modular, and scalable.
This technology is the first and only one of its kind to receive design approval from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
NuScale is expected to invest $6.5 billion to $7.5 billion in the Philippines to provide 430 megawatts of power by 2031.
The US government has also committed to provide $70 million for exchange program opportunities for over 2,000 Filipinos in the next 10 years, according to the White House.
Among the fellowship and scholarship opportunities that will benefit from the expansion are the Fulbright program and other bilateral exchange programs with the Philippines.
Both governments plan to establish the Philippines-US Friendship Fellowship, which will provide Filipino students and young professionals with opportunities to pursue further schooling in the United States.
The Philippines and the United States have gone through good times and bad times in equal measure through the decades.
But the convergence of common interests and shared experiences now compel them to become even closer allies and partners in a rapidly changing regional and global landscape.