SECRETARY BLINKEN: We’ll take our masks off for the occasion. Good afternoon, everyone. It’s a real pleasure to welcome Foreign Minister Locsin here to the State Department. We happen to be, among many other things, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the alliance between the Philippines and the United States.
But this is not about looking backwards; it’s about looking forward on the very important work that we are doing together in so many different areas. We were very gratified to have the recent renewal of the Visiting Forces Agreement. We are standing shoulder-to-shoulder in combating COVID-19. and looking at ways to build back better from the pandemic.
And of course, the Philippines is a strong supporter of the rules-based international order, including the freedom of navigation. We’ll certainly be talking about that and many more things.
But it’s, Teddy, very, very good to have you here at the State Department. Welcome.
FOREIGN SECRETARY LOCSIN: I’ve met – this is first time I’ve seen Secretary Blinken face to face. I’m so happy. We talk often on the telephone. At the height of the pandemic, the response of the United States has been one that galvanized the effort to fight the pandemic in the Philippines. People were a little wary about other alternatives, but when Biden came across – President Biden – and gave a huge shipment of vaccines, it really went well.
Of course, our discussions have always been frank. We talk about specific issues, for example, on how the United States had in such a short period of time vaccinated so many. And I must tell you that he’s a rare individual. He said the credit goes to the American people and, oddly, the neighborhood pharmacist. He says that kind of trust, right, is something that we – because our health system is very institutionalized, so then you have to gain the trust of the public. But apparently, the old American way does it better – neighborhoods.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you, Teddy.
FOREIGN SECRETARY LOCSIN: These insights I have gained one among many from the Secretary, and I bring them to my work and to my president.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. It’s great to have you here.
FOREIGN SECRETARY LOCSIN: Thank you.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Now to work. See you all.