Marcos pivots to US: 'We are partners, allies, and friends'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 23) — Warming up to the country’s longstanding ally after six years of unsteady relations, President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. affirmed his commitment to maintaining solid ties with the United States.

During a brief meeting on Thursday (New York time) with US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, Marcos vowed to uphold the deep ties between the two nations.

"We are your partners. We are your allies. We are your friends. And in like fashion, we have always considered the United States our partner, our ally, and our friend," he said prior to their bilateral meeting.

The American leader replied, "Thank you. It's mutual."

Biden also acknowledged that the strong foundation of the two nations' ties went through "rocky times" in recent years.

Then President Rodrigo Duterte, Marcos' predecessor, marked his leadership with what he said was an independent foreign policy, keeping close ties with China and Russia while often criticizing the US.

Early in his term, Duterte lambasted and hurled expletives against then-US President Barack Obama – whom Mr. Biden served as vice president -- for raising human rights concerns about his administration's bloody war on drugs.

He also ordered the abrogation of the Philippines' longstanding military pact with the US before canceling the termination order.

The fiasco on the Visiting Forces Agreement stemmed from the cancellation of Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa's US visa due to alleged extrajudicial killings during his term as chief of the Philippine National Police from 2016 to 2018.

On the other hand, Senator Francis Tolentino, a Duterte ally, said that Marcos' remarks to Biden cannot be considered a pivot towards the US.

"There has never been a shift insofar as our historical alliance with the United States is concerned. The previous administration's 'recalibrated' relations with other countries are part of the dynamics of evolving diplomacy wherein the interests of the nation is always primordial," he said in a statement.

Before their meeting, Biden said he expected to discuss with Marcos the disputes in the South China Sea, which he called a critical global throughway, according to a transcript released by the White House.

Marcos, in response, expressed a similar sentiment, and noted that the country's path on the sea dispute is to preserve peace.

The US president said he also wanted an in-depth conversation with Marcos about human rights.