By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

United States Secretary of State Anthony Blinken (File photo)

MANILA – The Philippines is optimistic that the visit of United States (US) Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will result in the further strengthening of the two nations’ economic and defense cooperation, Malacañang said on Tuesday.

Citing Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo’s statement, Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Secretary Cheloy Garafil said there is no expected agreement to be signed during Blinken’s visit to Manila, but there would be discussions on the current status of the bilateral relations between the Philippines and the US.

In a statement released by the PCO, Manalo said the progress in the two countries’ shared commitment to enhance their alliance in pursuit of common interests would also be tackled.

“We intend to review regional and global developments that have significant implications for our mutual security, economic growth, and shared aspirations. We will build on the recent discussions with visiting US officials for deeper and greater economic engagement between our two countries,” he said.

Manalo was referring to last week’s visit of the first-ever Presidential Trade and Investment Mission (PITM) led by US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to the Philippines.

He said his scheduled meeting with Blinken would also be an opportunity to discuss ways to ensure that the defense and economic ties between the Philippines and the US are responsive to present and future challenges.

“We are aiming to determine what concrete measures may be undertaken further in order to implement the directives of Presidents Marcos and Biden to ensure that our alliance and partnership remains relevant and responsive to current, emerging, and cross-cutting challenges in the defense, security, economic, and people-to-people spheres,” he added.

Manalo and Blinken’s meeting will also focus on clean and renewable energy development, semiconductors, and the digital economy, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier said.

The DFA said Manalo and Blinken would also discuss overall bilateral cooperation in the context of regional issues, including peace and stability in the South China Sea (SCS).

Blinken is also expected to meet with President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. at Malacañan Palace in Manila on Tuesday afternoon where they would discuss cooperation and security matters.

In a media interview on the sidelines of his working visit to Berlin, Germany on March 13, Marcos said he is keen on holding a meeting with Blinken to formalize the trilateral cooperation among the Philippines, Japan, and the US amid the tensions in the SCS.

The Philippines has been intensifying its security cooperation with the US and Japan, amid China’s provocative actions in the disputed waters.

This is Blinken’s second visit to the Philippines, which is less than a week after the PITM’s visit to the country. (PNA)