Undersecretary Ridao with members of the Philippine delegation in Washington, DC. Photo provided by Sean Salazar, Executive Assistant to the Undersecretary.

An Interview with Philippine Presidential Communications Undersecretary Emerald Anne R. Ridao


President Joseph R. Biden Jr., along with Philippine President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, held the historic US-Philippines-Japan Trilateral Summit on April 11, 2024, in Washington, DC. Undersecretary Emerald Ridao of the Presidential Communications Office and a member of President Marcos’ delegation in Washington, DC sat down with the East-West Center in Washington for an exclusive interview.

The Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, released in February 2022, stressed the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific. As a manifestation of this, the leaders of the United States, the Philippines, and Japan met in Washington, DC on April 11, 2024, for a historic trilateral summit meant to reaffirm and strengthen alliance commitments between the three countries.

Following the summit, the White House released a Joint Vision Statement from the Leaders of Japan, the Philippines, and the United States emphasizing that a free and open Indo-Pacific along with an international order grounded on international law is a vision they commit to advancing “for decades to come”.

Following the aftermath of World War II and despite the history of colonization, the Philippines has remained a staunch ally and development partner for both the United States and Japan. The recent summit highlighted trilateral support for the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) in promoting inclusive economic growth for the three economies and in the broader region. The Philippines also has robust security agreements with both the United States and Japan. There are three instruments which mark the US-Philippine security relationship: the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951, the Visiting Forces Agreement of 1998, and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement of 2014 which was recently expanded in February last year. Prime Minister Kishida, in his visit to Manila in November, also committed to expanding Japan’s military cooperation with the Philippines. In terms of development, according to data from the Philippine Department of Finance, Japan has also been the largest bilateral source of official development assistance to the Philippines over the past 20 years with a total of USD 14.139 billion in loans contracted and committed.

The trajectory of President Marcos’ administration indicates a long-term strategic partnership with the United States and Japan in advancing the Philippines’ national interests. Undersecretary for Digital Media Services Emerald Anne R. Ridao of the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) joined President Marcos in Washington, DC during the historic trilateral summit. Undersecretary Ridao sat down with the East-West Center in Washington to offer her insights on the future of the trilateral partnership:

What are the key priorities of the Marcos administration in strengthening the trilateral partnership between the Philippines, the United States, and Japan?

The Marcos administration’s priorities in strengthening the trilateral partnership between the Philippines, the United States, and Japan are centered on regional peace and security, economic cooperation, infrastructure development, and technological advancement. This includes fostering enduring economic growth through investments and initiatives like the IPEF, as well as promoting innovation and supply chain resilience. Infrastructure development, exemplified by the Luzon Economic Corridor, aims to enhance connectivity and drive economic growth across key regions in the Philippines. Furthermore, the administration is committed to harnessing cutting-edge technologies, such as Open Radio Access Network (RAN) technology, through collaborative efforts with the United States and Japan to support the country’s ICT ecosystem and semiconductor industry. These priorities underscore the President's dedication to advancing economic prosperity, infrastructure modernization, and technological innovation through robust trilateral cooperation.

How does digital media play a role in advancing these partnership goals, and what specific initiatives has the Philippine government undertaken in this regard?

Digital media plays a vital role in advancing communication, collaboration, and information dissemination. The Philippine government actively leverages digital platforms to promote economic cooperation, facilitate trade and investment activities, and enhance security cooperation through real-time information sharing. Initiatives such as the Luzon Economic Corridor and partnerships in critical technologies underscore the strategic use of digital media to drive tangible outcomes in infrastructure development, economic resilience, and technological innovation.

Additionally, digital platforms facilitate coordination on climate action and clean energy initiatives, fostering knowledge sharing and collaboration. By harnessing digital media effectively, the Philippines demonstrates its commitment to advancing shared objectives in economic development, technological innovation, climate resilience, and regional security within the trilateral partnership framework.

Are there any specific challenges or obstacles that you anticipate in deepening cooperation in the realm of digital media among the Philippines, the United States, and Japan, and how do you plan to address them?

Since the Philippines is an archipelago, we have utilized digital media to bridge the islands and streamline their access to information. In collaborating with other countries, obstacles that we may anticipate moving forward include the differences in regulatory frameworks, data privacy laws, and disparities in digital infrastructure and technological capabilities. This would require harmonizing policies and regulations to ensure compatibility and compliance across borders. Fortunately, during our brief visit here in Washington, DC, the PCO engaged with relevant agencies from the United States to begin discussions for possible points of collaboration to address such obstacles.

With the growing influence of social media in shaping public opinion, what strategy is the Marcos administration employing to promote responsible and ethical use of digital media, while also safeguarding against misinformation and disinformation?

In the Philippines, we are leading the "Maging Mapanuri" Media and Information Literacy Campaign, a strategy adapted by the PCO to promote the responsible use and consumption of media. Together with relevant government agencies, the private sector, and civil society, we are developing strategies to ensure that every citizen is equipped to identify and combat mis- and disinformation, promoting a safe and responsible digital space.

Lastly, looking ahead, what are your hopes and aspirations for the future of the trilateral partnership in the digital age, and what role do you see the Presidential Communications Office playing in realizing these objectives?

In this digital era, the trilateral partnership leverages innovative digital solutions to address shared challenges, promote economic growth, enhance security, and foster cultural exchange. We aspire to witness the development of joint initiatives in digital infrastructure development, cybersecurity cooperation, and digital skills training, ensuring that all stakeholders benefit from the opportunities presented by the digital revolution.

We see the PCO playing a pivotal role as a facilitator and coordinator of digital communication efforts within the Philippine government and in collaboration with its counterparts in the United States and Japan.

The PCO, through the leadership of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., can spearhead initiatives to promote digital literacy, foster dialogue on digital policy issues, and showcase the Philippines’ digital capabilities and innovations on the global stage. Furthermore, the PCO can utilize digital media platforms to engage with stakeholders and disseminate information about trilateral partnership activities.

The author would like to thank Undersecretary Emerald Anne R. Ridao for her generous time and insights and Sean Louis E. Salazar of the Presidential Communications Office for coordinating the interview.

Kyle Ta-ay was a participant of the East-West Center in Washington’s Young Professionals Program in Spring 2024. He is also a member of the Young Leaders Program of the Pacific Forum in Honolulu. He recently received his M.A. in International Affairs: Global Governance, Politics, and Security from American University’s School of International Service and was a 2024 Outstanding Service awardee.