SPEAKER Ferdinand Martin Romualdez has laid the groundwork for the historic visit of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. this weekend to the United States (US) to meet with President Joe Biden and other US officials.
Just days before President Marcos’ visit, the Speaker embarked on a two-week trip to the US to meet with American lawmakers to discuss defense and security cooperation and economic partnership between the Philippines and the US.
“I think the conditions are right for the meeting between President Bongbong Marcos and President Joe Biden. We have high hopes for the exchange of ideas between the two leaders and its outcome,” Speaker Romualdez said.
The House leader is still in the US, following up on his earlier interactions with his US counterpart, Speaker Kevin McArthy, and other American lawmakers and officials.
The Speaker and his delegation also had meetings with US House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, and Representatives Young Kim, Mike Rogers, Darrell Issa, Ami Bera, and Chris Stewart.
He has described his meeting with the Speaker of the US House of Representatives and other lawmakers as “historic and fruitful.”
It was the first meeting between two House Speakers of the two countries in recent years.
“Our meeting proved fruitful as the Philippine delegation managed to impress on Speaker McCarthy the need for the legislative representatives of the two countries to ramp up discussions on how to further boost US-Philippine relations,” Speaker Romualdez said.
“Relations between our two countries remain strong. Our security alliance under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty is ironclad. Our economic partnership is robust. And the friendship between our two peoples is solid,” he said.
The other members of Speaker Romualdez’s delegation include Navotas City Rep. Tobias “Toby” Tiangco, Agusan del Norte 1st District Rep. Jose “Joboy” S. Aquino II, House Secretary General Reginald “Reggie”
Velasco, and House Sergeant-at-Arms PMGEN Napoleon Taas.
The Speaker said he and his group and their US peers also agreed on improving and communication, synergy, coordination, and sharing of best practices between their institutions.
“We were thankful that Speaker McCarthy shared our ideals and agreed to continue similar discussions in the future,” he said.
The House leader invited his counterpart and the third highest-ranking US official to visit the Philippines soon and attend the country’s hosting of the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum (APPF).
“Our message to the US legislators was clear. The US-Philippine ties are strong, and are reaching new heights and levels of understanding under the administrations of President Marcos and US President Joe Biden. Our defense and security arrangements are solid, and our bilateral strategic partnership is working,” he said.
“However, we also pointed out the need to step up bilateral discussions on economic issues to make the benefits of this dynamic relationship more tangible tenfold for our people. We need to strengthen not only our defense cooperation, but also our economic partnership,” he said.
He said the Philippines under President Marcos “has reintegrated relations with the United States not only to provide peace and stability in our region, but also prosperity for our people.”
Romualdez said the warm welcome they received from their American peers “solidifies the good working bilateral ties between the two countries under the Biden and Marcos administrations.”
“We thank our US counterparts for our fruitful engagements with them and for their commitment to further strengthen Philippine-US partnership in defense, security, economic, and other areas,” he said.
As a defense treaty ally, the Philippines has been receiving substantial defense assistance from the US in terms of training and defense items and equipment.
From 2002 to 2021, the country received roughly US$1.8 billion for defense modernization, maritime security, counter-terrorism, anti-narcotics, anti-human trafficking, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear preparedness.
On the economic front, Washington remains an important and strategic trading and investment partner of Manila. This economic partnership remained strong despite challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With our strong economy, we invited the US to increase and expand its investments. Just recently I was with the economic team of President Marcos to help generate more investments during the 2023 World Bank Group-International Monetary Fund (WBG-IMF) Spring Meetings,” Speaker Romualdez said.
Before his group met with its US counterparts, the House leader accompanied members of administration’s economic team in their second of a series of economic briefings in Washington DC for potential American investors.
Catherine R. Cueto