By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter

PHILIPPINE President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. on Sunday arrived in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he was expected to have a “capability orientation” amid worsening tensions with China.

While in Honolulu, the last stop of his weeklong US trip, the President would visit the US Indo-Pacific Command headquarters, the presidential palace said in a statement on Sunday.

He will be briefed about the Joint Base Pearl Harbor–Hickam, which combines two historic bases into a single joint installation to support both US Air Force and Navy missions, and the West Philippine Sea Support, it said.

Mr. Marcos will also attend a roundtable meeting at the Daniel Inouye Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies.

His visit to the US Indo-Pacific Command and meeting with the Daniel Inouye Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies, which provides a forum for civilian and military leaders from the region to address regional and global security issues, comes on the heels of increasing tensions in the South China Sea.

The Indo-Pacific Command, the oldest and largest of the 11 unified commands of the US, is responsible for all US military activities in the region, covering 36 nations or more than 50% of the world’s population.

Its commander is responsible for more than 380,000 soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, guardians, coast guardsmen and civilian forces of the US Defense department.

“A Philippine president visiting the oldest and of the largest commands in the US armed forces is symbolic and at the same time practical,” Joshua Bernard B. Espeña, who teaches foreign relations at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, said via Google Meet.

It shows that the US commitment to defend the region amid a deteriorating security situation is credible, he added.

The growing involvement of the Philippines in the US Indo-Pacific strategy could spur negative responses from its neighbors who want to be spared from the escalating tension between the US and China, he said.

But Manila’s insecurity in the South China Sea is also the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) insecurity, Mr. Espeña said.

“Privately, some Southeast Asian nations will be happy with what we are doing,” he said, citing countries such as Vietnam that are also concerned about an increasingly belligerent China.

He said the Philippines has leaned on the US, which has vowed to make the region “free, open and prosperous,” due to ASEAN’s failure to come up with a collective response to China’s increasing assertiveness at sea.

Mr. Marcos’ visit to the Indo-Pacific Command headquarters signals the willingness of the Philippines, a rising middle power, to play a major role in keeping a rules-based order in the region, he added.

The US has focused on the Indo-Pacific region since 2021 after pulling its troops out of Afghanistan.

The world’s busiest international sea lanes and nine largest ports are found in the region, which is home to two of the three largest economies in the globe — the US, China and Japan.

The Indo-Pacific’s security feature is also unique because it is home to seven of the world’s 10 largest military powers and five of the world’s nuclear nations.

Aside from conflicts in the South China Sea, the Indo-Pacific region, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of the world economy, also must deal with tensions in the Taiwan Strait and nuclear threats from North Korea.

Mr. Marcos was expected to meet with the Filipino community in Hawaii, where his family stayed in 1986 after a popular uprising toppled the autocratic rule of his late father and namesake.