MANILA, Philippines – The United States’ new envoy to the Philippines, Ambassador MaryKay Carlson, met with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Friday, July 22, in a swift effort to bolster ties between the two longtime allies.
Carlson, who presented her credentials to Marcos in Malacañang, is the first to assume the post that had been left vacant for nearly two years. A career diplomat, she is the second female to serve as US ambassador to the Philippines, following Kristie Kenney from 2006 to 2010.
Carlson faces the challenge of dealing with a Philippine president, and his family, once exiled in and put on trial by America.
Marcos is the son and namesake of the Philippines’ late dictator whose ouster on February 25, 1986, has been partly attributed to US intervention. The Philippine president also faces a contempt judgment in the US, which helped in cracking down on the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth.
Speaking with the Philippine leader on Friday, Carlson sought to demonstrate Washington’s dependability, echoing US President Joe Biden’s message to Marcos in May, where he vouched that the US’ commitment to the Philippines “is deep and enduring – as friend, ally, and partner.”
“The United States is committed to partnering with you and your team as you move ahead. As you act to ensure the security, prosperity, and freedoms of the Philippine people, we are here to help, and invested in your success,” Carlson said.
“I arrive in Manila inspired by the bond between our great nations and devoted to making it even stronger,” she said.
Friday’s meeting was among the first major items on Carlson’s agenda, along with the presentation of her credentials at the Department of Foreign Affairs. The experienced diplomat flew in from Washington DC on Thursday evening, July 21, after wrapping up a series of consultations.
In working with the Marcos administration, Carlson said the US looks forward to partnering with the Philippines on developing stronger trade ties, as well as tackling climate change, clean energy, and the protection of natural resources.
“You have a reliable partner in the United States on all these issues,” Carlson said.
Carlson meets President Marcos as she presents her credentials as US ambassador to the Philippines.
(Photos from US embassy) pic.twitter.com/WP1VGH9t6R
— Sofia Tomacruz (@sofiatomacruz) July 22, 2022
Why it matters
The arrival of a US ambassador to the Philippines is significant considering the position has been left empty since September 2020, when former US ambassador to Manila Sung Kim wrapped up his tour. Not only is the Philippines the US’ oldest ally in Asia, it is also a key country in its global competition with China.
Weeks before Carlson’s arrival, China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi made an official visit to the Philippines, making him the first foreign minister to be received by Marcos and Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo.
Among the highest officials to visit Marcos from the US before this include Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, who met with Marcos in early June, and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, who led the US delegation to Marcos’ inauguration last June 30.
With nearly four decades of experience, Carlson’s previous posts include the US’ diplomatic missions in India, China, Ukraine, Hong Kong, Mozambique, Kenya, and the Dominican Republic. She has likewise served as principal deputy executive secretary on the staff of the Secretary of State.
Ties that bind
Under Marcos, the US is expected to face unique challenges in steering ties with the Philippines.
Shared history between America and the Marcos family has been rocky with the US government responsible for whisking away his family to Hawaii at the height of the People Power revolt that toppled the Marcos patriarch’s rule.
Years prior to the end of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986, however, it was also the US that supported the late dictator’s regime despite widespread corruption and allegations of human rights abuses.
The US would later cooperate with the Philippines in its efforts to reclaim the Marcos family’s ill-gotten wealth. While a New York court would clear Imelda Marcos of racketeering and fraud charges in 1990, the Marcos matriarch and Bongbong continue to face a standing contempt judgement issued by a US court in connection with a human rights class suit against his late dictator-father.
For now, though, Marcos will enjoy immunity for being the head of state, a customary practice under international law, that will allow him to travel to the US as leader of the Philippines.
In this new chapter, both Marcos and the US voiced readiness to instead look to the future. As Marcos earlier expressed his desire and willingness to strengthen the Philippines’ relationship with the US, Biden has personally invited Marcos to visit Washington.
Carlson, whose arrival takes place less than a month into Marcos’ presidency, expressed optimism that ties between the two countries under a new administration would prosper.
“With your leadership, we are glad that our bilateral relations are off to an excellent start,” she said. – Rappler.com