This July 4, Americans all over the world are celebrating the 247th anniversary of U.S. independence. Here in the Philippines, we are also commemorating the 69th Philippine-American Friendship Day, making July 4 doubly special – a time to celebrate all that the Philippines and the United States have accomplished together as steadfast friends, partners in prosperity, and ironclad allies.
Since I arrived in July last year, I’ve had the opportunity to see the deep, multifaceted U.S.-Philippine relationship at work. During a recent trip to Cebu, I met talented new friends from the vibrant network of U.S. exchange alumni in the Visayas. In Ilocos Norte, I learned how our development efforts are improving energy efficiency standards, a key part of the Philippines’ clean energy transition. Last October, I had the honor to share the stage with President Marcos in Tacloban to commemorate the Leyte Gulf landing, honoring our shared history; while during a recent visit to Isabela province, I witnessed how U.S. and Philippine troops are working together today to modernize our alliance – training at Camp Melchor Dela Cruz. These trips and the many other milestones mark strong momentum in U.S.-Philippine relations.
This year’s highlight in our bilateral ties was the resoundingly successful visit to Washington, D.C. by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. During President Marcos’s Oval Office meeting with President Biden, our leaders discussed the full spectrum of our relationship as friends, partners, and allies. President Biden reaffirmed our ironclad commitment to the Alliance and announced a first-of-its-kind Presidential Trade and Investment Mission to the Philippines. Our leaders also discussed new efforts to promote clean energy, expand science and technology cooperation, and protect the environment. President Marcos also met with multiple U.S. cabinet members. I was particularly struck by the lively, substantive discussion President Marcos had with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, resulting in innovative programs to tackle food and nutrition insecurity.
This year, we also saw the successful conclusion of the largest, most complex iteration of Exercise Balikatan. Over 17,000 troops from the United States and the Philippines, as well as a contingent from Australia, trained shoulder-to-shoulder on land, at sea, in the air, and – for the first time – in cyberspace. Together, we announced four new locations where our countries will make investments to improve Philippine military infrastructure and capabilities under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, or EDCA. Projects implemented at these EDCA locations will advance the Philippine Armed Forces’ modernization goals and bring tangible economic benefits to local communities, creating jobs and opportunities for local businesses. The Philippines is the largest recipient of U.S. security assistance in the Indo-Pacific. Strengthening our Alliance helps secure peace and prosperity for our peoples.
U.S.-Philippine economic partnerships are flourishing. In May, I visited two top-tier U.S. businesses in Cebu, Timex and Teradyne. Like many U.S. companies operating in the Philippines, Timex and Teradyne provide thousands of Filipinos with high-quality, high-paying jobs – including as managers and executives. U.S. businesses value the talent of the Filipino workforce and, more and more, are looking to the Philippines as an attractive place to trade and invest. For example, Moderna has chosen the Philippines as its first-ever operational hub in Asia. We look forward to building on this momentum as partners in prosperity.
The United States is committed to supporting the Philippines’ growth and development goals. Through USAID, the United States recently invested one billion pesos to help small and medium-sized enterprises compete in the country’s e-commerce ecosystem. This investment helps build a robust, inclusive, secure, and resilient digital economy. USAID is also supporting the Philippine government and private sector to increase access to fast and reliable internet across the archipelago, train Filipino workers to meet the evolving requirements of the high-tech manufacturing sector, and help youth develop the skills they need to succeed.
This Fourth of July, I hope you’ll agree we have much to celebrate!
MaryKay Carlson is U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines.