Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said he is “determined to forge an even stronger relationship” with the U.S. ahead of a meeting with President Joe Biden in Washington.

“We will reaffirm our commitment to fostering our long-standing alliance as an instrument of peace and as a catalyst of development in the Asia-Pacific region and the rest of the world,” Marcos said in a speech livestreamed on Sunday before leaving for his U.S. visit. The two leaders will meet at the White House on Monday.

The visit comes months after the Philippines granted the U.S. greater access to its military sites, paving the way for greater American presence in Asia Pacific amid heightened tensions with China over Taiwan and the disputed South China Sea. Earlier, the U.S. accused China of harassing Philippine ships after vessels from the two nations nearly collided in the South China Sea a week ago.

Marcos is expected to discuss defense deals with Biden. He also intends to tell the U.S. president he is determined to build stronger ties “in a wide range of areas that not only address the concerns of our times,” but also on critical areas including food and energy security and climate change.

The Philippine leader said one of his priorities for the visit, which runs through May 4, is “to push for greater economic engagement” between the two nations including in semiconductors and renewable energy. He will be joined by his economic team and some private sector executives to explore business opportunities.

During their first bilateral meeting in September, Biden reaffirmed the United States’ “ironclad commitment to the defense of the Philippines.” In February, the U.S. won access to four more Philippine military bases.


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