In Palawan, Harris will also tackle climate issues affecting fishermen

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris listens during a panel discussion at the NAACP National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S. July 18, 2022. (File photo by HANNAH BEIER/Reuters)

MANILA, Philippines — US Vice President Kamala Harris will not only address security issues during her visit to Palawan, but also climate issues affecting fishermen, according to a senior US administration official.

The official spoke in an interview on Sunday evening (Philippine time) on condition of anonymity.

“The vice president will speak publicly in Palawan. I think we’ve already discussed that the purpose of her trip to Palawan was more than just getting out of the capital – which she loves to do in the country she’s visiting and is always interested in seeing things outside the capital. This is to emphasize the importance of environmental protection,” the official said.

“Palawan is a place where fishing communities face environmental challenges, both from climate change but also from unreported illegal fishing. The climate crisis is therefore the theme of the vice-president’s trip. Frankly, it’s a theme that she insists on everywhere she goes, ”he added.

The trip will also give Harris the opportunity to highlight the need for rules to ensure freedom of navigation in the Western Philippine Sea, where Filipino fishermen face challenges due to a maritime dispute between the Philippines. and China.

“This [engagement] in Palawan is an opportunity to highlight — and help the Philippines [fisherfolk]our allies – these challenges,” the official said.

The US vice president’s trip to Palawan has grabbed headlines as the island province borders the Western Philippine Sea, with the Spratly Islands being the closest.

The Philippine Coast Guard is expected to show Harris Palawan aboard a patrol boat.

There were fears that Harris’ visit could cause tension between the two Asian countries, but President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said that shouldn’t be a problem because Palawan is part of Philippine territory.

“Of course, it’s the closest area to the South China Sea, but it’s very clearly in Philippine territory. I don’t think it will cause any problems,” he said.

Harris is expected to meet with Vice President Sara Duterte first before meeting with Marcos for an “extensive bilateral meeting” on Monday.

Apart from that, Harris will have other commitments, among them the launch of key negotiations on nuclear cooperation between the United States and the Philippines.

Harris arrived in Manila on Sunday evening aboard Air Force Two and was greeted by US Ambassador MaryKay Carlson and Filipino officials, led by Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez.

Harris is the highest-ranking US official to visit the Philippines during the Marcos administration.

Before her, under the previous Duterte administration, then-President Donald Trump traveled to Manila to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in 2017.

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Teresa H. Sadler