FOREIGN SECRETARY MANALO: First, Mr. Secretary, welcome to the Philippines and to the department of foreign affairs, even though it’s virtual. And I’m glad that you did find the opportunity and time to come here to Manila, especially after attending the very hectic ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Phnom Penh. It’s unfortunate that I had to miss the AMM, but I hope I’ll have opportunities again to meet my colleagues in the ASEAN. I’m also pleased that we’re able to continue our conversation from our earlier phone call, I think early last month – although virtual, but at least we have a chance to talk. I would have preferred, of course, face to face, but nonetheless I look forward to working closely with you and in infusing even more vigor in our bilateral relationship.
I also understand that we’re expecting two other U.S. congressional delegations over the next two weeks.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: That’s right.
FOREIGN SECRETARY MANALO: We consider this a very positive sign of, I hope, the growing interest United States legislators start off on the right foot with our new administration. The Philippines continues, of course, to look at (inaudible), to help calm the waters and keep peace. And we can ill afford any further escalation of tensions in the region, because we are already facing a number of challenges getting our economy back to work, especially because of the COVID-19 pandemic. And we all know that no one country will be able to deal with all these issues on their own. And we look at the United States, a very important ally, our dear friend, as we chart our path forward.
So thank you again, Mr. Secretary, and (inaudible) giving you the floor for your introductory remarks. But I ask the Philippine delegation who were seated in another room – please introduce themselves.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you, Ricky.
(The delegation is introduced.)
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thanks very much, Ricky — and I won’t belabor it; I know we have – we’ll have a chance to speak to our colleagues in the media in a short while, but simply to say I very much agree with everything you said. There is so much that we need to be focused on together, and I think the shared focus that we have – and this really stood out in the president with the conversation – was the need to focus on the issues that matter most in the lives of our fellow citizens, and to focus particularly not simply on the recovery from COVID but on the important transitions both of our countries and economies need to make to really fulfill the aspirations of our people.
And we’re working together on so many of these things. We have exactly the same perspective that no one of us can do it alone. We need, more than ever, these partnerships, this cooperation, this coordination. And that’s very much the spirit in which we approach our partnership, our friendship. At the same time, we have to deal with some of the challenges to peace and security that we’re seeing around the world, including in our own region. And the United States, for its part, is determined to act responsibly so that we avoid crisis, we avoid conflict, and we’re able to focus our energies and attentions on the things that matter most to our people. That’s what we should be doing; that’s what we’re determined to do with you.
So very much looking forward to this conversation. I’m going to let my team here as well do the same thing and introduce themselves – Kim, starting with you.
(The delegation is introduced.)
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. And colleagues, thank you very much.