QUESTION: All right. Secretary of State Blinken, it’s an honor to have you on Head Start. I’m Karen Davila. Please tell us about your meeting with President Marcos this morning.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, it was really an honor and a pleasure to see the president, to be able to spend so much time with him, and to cover so much ground. And I think it’s a reflection of the depth and breadth of the partnership between the United States and the Philippines. There was a lot to talk about, and it’s a fact – and I think the president said this very well: When we’re thinking about all of the challenges that we face and that our people face, no one country can address them alone. And that puts an even greater importance on the partnership between our countries. Working together, we can achieve a lot more for Filipinos and Americans alike.
QUESTION: What were your first impressions of the president?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, again, what was, I think, impressive to me is how many different areas we were able to address in our conversation. But something he said really stood out, and that is: we’re all thinking about a recovery from COVID given the impact that it’s had, but I think, as the president expressed it, it’s not going back to where things were before COVID. It’s really about taking things forward so that we can address some of the challenges, also the opportunities of the 21st century economy. Those are the terms in which we have to think about this.
QUESTION: Your visit comes at a very volatile times in Asia, and you reiterated your commitment to the Mutual Defense Treaty.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: That’s right.
QUESTION: But this is a 1951 treaty. Times have changed. How do you see the treaty evolving to something relevant to today’s challenges?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, it’s interesting because it’s all – it’s a reflection of an important fact. There is a tremendous history between the United States and the Philippines, and we often talk about that. But what’s even more important in a sense than that is the living history, the history that we’re creating together right now. And that means making sure that, together, we’re adapting to the present and to new realities, including with the Mutual Defense Treaty. So this is a – in a sense a living document, and as we understand the changes and the challenges that we’re facing, that can adapt, too.
QUESTION: President Marcos described it as one in constant evolution. How does the Biden administration see the Mutual Defense Treaty being in constant evolution with the challenges we all face today?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, we’re in a region that’s going through extraordinary change, and it’s also a region that we share – we’re a Pacific country as well – and a region that has extraordinary opportunity. We have in the Indo-Pacific 60 percent of the world’s population, 40 percent of its economic output – all of that is here. But security is vitally important to making sure that people can live free, secure lives; economies can flourish; trade, commerce can move about freely. And what underpins that is security, and the partnership between the Philippines and the United States is vital for that. Freedom of navigation, freedom of the seas, the things like fishing that are so important to thousands, tens of thousands of livelihoods – all of this is part of the security partnership that we have.
QUESTION: Yeah. Now, you spoke about fishing, and I find that quite interesting. Given that the United States isn’t a stakeholder, so to speak, or a claimant country, what role are you seeing that the U.S. will take to essentially help resolve the struggles that the Philippines has with that particular area in the West Philippine Sea?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, what’s important to us is that all countries, the United States included, play by the rules. And there is an international order that’s evolved over many years. After the Second World War – two world wars – countries came together and said: we don’t want this to happen again. And what grew out of that was what we call the “international rules-based order,” grounded in the United Nations Charter, grounded in international law that grew from there, including, for example, the Law of the Sea.
And from our perspective, it’s very important to uphold the law, uphold the rules, uphold the norms that countries agree to together, because even if it’s something that we’re not directly involved in, if we allow these things to erode, if international law is violated with impunity, then everything risks eroding and falling apart. So we have a stake in making sure that the rules-based order is upheld wherever it is. And of course, we’re allies with the Philippines.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: So the future of the Philippines, the security of the Philippines, the well-being of Filipinos is important to us as allies and as friends and partners.
QUESTION: And, Secretary Blinken, when it comes to strengthening this relationship, I’m curious: Are you seeing, for example, the importance? What do you think of, for example, joint navigational drills? I mean, this was suspended during the past administration. Do you feel it’s important and vital for the Philippines to have them?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I think there are lots of things that we can do together beyond what we’ve done in the past or that we’re doing now. And we have almost daily, if not hourly contact in so many areas. I’ll leave it to my colleagues, for example at the Pentagon, to talk about that. But I think based on my own conversations, including with the foreign secretary, there – it’s clear that there is even more that we can do together, and not in the security area. We’re working together on climate change. We’re working together on health, including on COVID —
QUESTION: Okay. Secretary, I don’t – I wanted to ask you: With Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, what role are you seeing that the Philippines should take considering it – the proximity between China, Taiwan, and the Philippines. What role do we play as a country?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, look, first, I think it’s important to note this: we have on the one hand a leader in a Congress making a visit to Taiwan, as many members of Congress have, including just this year probably 10 or more delegations coming from our Congress. And then this reaction by Beijing, including launching 11 ballistic missiles – half of them landed very near – the sea near Japan – making military maneuvers, putting ships in places near the Taiwan Strait that could have impeded commerce moving through the strait. And so much commerce moves that strait that’s critical to the global supply chain. If that’s interrupted, it’s going to be a problem for everyone.
So I think this reaction by China is something that’s very concerning to countries throughout the region and even beyond. That’s what I’ve heard in the couple of days that I’ve been here, including most recently in Cambodia. They are looking to the United States, they are looking to China to act responsibly, and when there are differences between the United States and China, that we manage them responsibly. That’s what we’re focused on doing. So we’re not going to overreact ourselves, and we hope that China engages in the responsible management of what differences we do have.
What’s also very unfortunate is that China announced just today that it was ceasing cooperation with the United States in a number of areas to include the work together on climate change. China is now the largest emitter in the world. If it’s not participating in dealing with climate change – and the effects that Filipinos are feeling every day with massive new storms and other disruptions – if China is not participating, that’s not punishing us; it’s punishing the world. And at the very least, we should be able to continue to cooperate in areas where there are global concerns, even if we have differences in other areas.
QUESTION: And my last question is: the “pivot to Asia” was a buzz word by your predecessor – is there a new definition now to the “pivot to Asia” that will now make it more relevant and meaningful for our future needs and the challenges the world faces?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I think it’s directly relevant, and it goes back to a couple of things we’ve talked about. One is a conviction that none of us acting alone can actually meet the challenges of our time, whether it’s COVID, whether it’s climate, whether it’s the affect that all of these new technologies are having on our lives. We have to find ways to work on them together because none of us can actually effectively make enough of a difference doing it alone.
And it comes back to the proposition that here in the Indo-Pacific with 60 percent of the world’s population, if we’re not working together there’s no way that we solve these challenges and that we actually seize the opportunities. And as we’re doing that together, I think it goes back to something President Marcos said – we have to be thinking about it in terms of where the world, where our economies are going in the future – not grounded in the past. One of the things that we’re doing that the Philippines is an original member of is the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: This is a way of working together to shape issues that are really having an impact on the lives of our people. The entire digital economy that’s so important, that’s a big part of it; making sure supply chains —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: — are strong and resilient. We’ve all experienced what happens when these supply chains are disrupted; making sure that we’re getting investments in new infrastructure, clean energy, because that’s going to be so important —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: — in the future; and of course making sure that governance is strong, we (inaudible) corruption which is such a destabilizing and waste of resources. All of these things are a part of our vision for the Indo-Pacific. It’s something that we’re partners with the Philippines on.
QUESTION: Will we be seeing the United States support the Philippines in clean energy? The President mentioned nuclear in his speech.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yes. He did – and two things. I just came from an extraordinary exhibit of projects here in the Philippines that are finding innovative, entrepreneurial answers to some of the biggest energy challenges we face. And some of the projects that I saw that are actually in effect here in the Philippines I think will answer questions and challenges not just in the Philippines, but around the world – and that’s Filipino innovation. We’re very proud that we’ve been able to partner through the United States Government in supporting some of these projects.
I think nuclear is a big part of the answer to future energy needs and to dealing with climate change. We have a partnership with the Philippines where we’re able to work together on nuclear power and that’s something that I talked to the President about. We’re looking forward to pursuing that together.
QUESTION: All right. Secretary Blinken —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you, Karen.
QUESTION: — thank you so much for this interview. I wish we had more time.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.