By ROY C. MABASA
All eyes are trained towards the visit of United States Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman who will meet with Philippine President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. in Manila this week in an apparent effort to gauge the incoming administration’s foreign policy direction amid China’s growing influence in the region.
Sherman is currently in Asia on a four-country swing that includes South Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Laos from June 5 to 14. This is a follow-up to the recent US-ASEAN Special Summit held in Washington, D.C. and the launching of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) initiative of US President Joe Biden in Tokyo.
The State Department, in an earlier statement, said Sherman will meet with Marcos Jr. and senior members of the incoming and outgoing administrations to discuss new ways to deepen the bilateral US-Philippines alliance amid the security challenges in the South China Sea.
She is so far the highest US official to visit Manila since the conduct of the May 9 election that gave Marcos Jr. a massive win over his nearest rival, Vice President Leni Robredo.
US Embassy in Manila Acting Spokesperson John Groch said Sherman is expected to be in Manila in the evening of June 8 but talks with Marcos Jr. will only take place the following day.
“BBM meeting is likely to be a very broad discussion of the ongoing importance of the partnership and alliance and our hopes for an ever-stronger relationship moving forward,” Groch told Politiko.ph when asked about the agenda of Sherman’s meeting with the incoming Philippine president.
While in Manila, the US State Department official is also set to participate in a business roundtable and a World Oceans Day event.