US Secretary of State Blinken to meet new Philippine leader Marcos to strengthen alliance

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr in Manila on Aug 6, 2022. PHOTOS: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel next week to the Philippines to meet new President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, with Washington expecting a close alliance despite rights concerns.

Mr Blinken will meet Mr Marcos in Manila on Aug 6 as part of efforts "to strengthen the US-Philippines alliance" including on energy and trade, the State Department said.

They will also discuss "our shared democratic values," a statement said on Friday (July 29).

Mr Blinken will head to the Philippines after attending a series of meetings in Cambodia.

He will be in Phnom Penh from Wednesday to Friday to participate in the US-Asean Ministerial Meeting, the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and the Asean Regional Forum.

“At each ministerial (meeting), the Secretary will emphasise the United States’ commitment to Asean centrality and successful implementation of the Asean Outlook on the Indo-Pacific,” the State Department said in a statement. “He will also address the Covid-19 pandemic, economic cooperation, the fight against climate change, the crisis in Burma (Myanmar), and Russia’s war in Ukraine.”

From Manila, the US top envoy will visit South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, the statement said.

Mr Marcos - the son of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos - quickly received a congratulatory call from President Joe Biden after he won the May elections.

The United States has a treaty alliance with the Philippines and has backed its former colony in increasingly heated disputes in the South China Sea with Beijing.

US relations rebounded with Manila toward the end of the tenure of Marcos' predecessor Rodrigo Duterte, who waged a brutal war on drugs that rights groups say left tens of thousands dead.

Then president Barack Obama raised concerns about human rights in 2016, leading Duterte to attack Obama publicly with profanity, but Duterte enjoyed unstinting support from Obama's successor Donald Trump.

Marcos Sr. and the first lady, Imelda, were notorious for their graft and high-flying lifestyle in a country marked by rampant poverty.

The United States supported the elder Marcos for two decades but nudged him into going into exile in Hawaii in 1986 in the face of mass protests.

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