Senator Imee Marcos did not mince words at a roundtable forum in Washington D.C. this week to clarify the direction Philippine foreign relations should take with two of the world's dominant superpowers.

"Do not make us choose between the U.S. and China," Marcos told a largely American assembly at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) where leading think tanks, embassies, companies, and universities took part in the forum.

Other participants included the federal U.S. Institute for Peace, the US-ASEAN Business Council, the Center for a New American Security, and the Asia Foundation.

Marcos, who chairs the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, emphasized that the Philippines and its Southeast Asian neighbors are calling for a "rational approach" in relations between Washington and Beijing to prevent a return to the "melodrama" of the Cold War.

The senator's statements arose from a Seven-Point Plan she unveiled at the forum and which she envisions for the Philippines' foreign policy regime and future legislation.

Top item of the Plan is to "re-examine," rather than revise, the Philippines-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty and Visiting Forces Agreement and how the language of both accords is to be implemented, as well as to assess the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement's delivery of development aid as promised.

The Plan also pursues increased military assistance and support for local defense contractors.

With the recent formation of multilateral defense arrangements as the AUKUS and the QUAD, the Plan also calls for a deeper study of their consequences for the Philippines and existing regional groupings.

Apart from military affairs, Marcos's foreign policy blueprint seeks new trade opportunities in deep-sea fishing and in the production and export of Philippine metals and semiconductor chips through a "Green Metals Initiative" and cooperation under the U.S.'s CHIPS and Science Act of 2022.

Marcos also took the opportunity to thank the USAID and the US-Philippines Society for their constant assistance in disaster relief and recovery, as she sought improvements in social protection and public safety nets.

She also encouraged professional exchanges, particularly of health care workers, teachers and academics, for better training, a transfer of know-how, and potential job creation.

Last but not the least, Marcos affirmed the strong alliance between the Philippines and the U.S. but said it should not inhibit engagement with China, which the Plan hopes to expand through confidence-building measures, joint development, and finalizing a code of conduct in the South China Sea.

The senator's remarks echo recent statements by her brother, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., during his speech and bilateral talks with U.S. President Joe Biden at the 77th United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The Washington D.C. event was sponsored by the US-Philippines Society and the Stimson Center's Southeast Asia Forum.



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