PH, US boost military alliance

2+2 Top Philippine and US officials hold a joint press briefing after a rare 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, on Wednesday, April 12, 2023 (Manila time). From left are Defense Officer in Charge Carlito Galvez Jr., Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. AFP PHOTO

(UPDATE) THE United States and the Philippines “redoubled” their commitment to boost their alliance as they reaffirmed that the Mutual Defense Treaty remains the “bedrock” of their cooperation.

Top US and Philippine foreign affairs and defense officials on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila) held the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in Washington D.C. to “reforge” their alliance.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo and Defense chief Carlito Galvez Jr. and their American counterparts Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin 3rd shared the need to modernize relations between Manila and Washington.

“Our security alliance is an enduring source of strength for both of our nations,” Blinken said in a joint press conference with Manalo, Austin and Galvez.

“Today we focused on ways to continue our close partnership under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) so that our forces can work even more closely together,” Blinken said.

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“Secretary Austin and I also reaffirmed the United States’ unwavering commitment to standing with the Philippines against any intimidation or coercion, including in the South China Sea and to preserving a region that’s governed by international law, where goods and ideas and people can move freely,” he added.

Austin said, “We all reaffirmed today that our Mutual Defense Treaty remains the bedrock of our cooperation.”

“As Secretary Blinken and I have said clearly and repeatedly, the Mutual Defense Treaty applies to armed attacks on either of our armed forces or aircraft or public vessels, including our Coast Guard anywhere in the South China Sea,” he said.

Galvez, on the other hand, said the Philippine-US partnership has “weathered many challenges in the past and continues to stand strong today.”

“We reaffirm our commitment to the Mutual Defense Treaty, which is our cornerstone of our partnership,” Galvez said.

Manalo confirmed that during the meeting, “we redoubled our commitment to modernizing the Philippine-US alliance, recognizing that our partnership will need to play a stronger role in preserving an international rules-based order.”

He said the Philippines welcomes the US’ pledge to “fast-track and drum up support” for the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as well as the implementation of EDCA projects and investments.

There are now nine sites that will house US troops and equipment under EDCA.

Both countries plan new exercises in the South China Sea later in the year that will include other countries, Austin said.

Asked if the Philippines worried about China’s reaction, Galvez said, “We don’t expect any violent reaction considering that this exercise is intended for our collective defense.”

In a joint statement later released by the US Department of State, the officials reaffirmed their shared determination to defend against an external armed attack in the Pacific, which includes the South China Sea, in accordance with the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement, and 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

Both sides said they look forward to continuing discussions regarding the nature of threats that “may arise in different domains — including land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace — and effective responses.”

Blinken said they also discussed to deepen the “robust economic ties” through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) which aims, among others, to increase economic opportunities for women and girls in the Philippines.

“We’re providing training in growing industries like data science and artificial intelligence, where women have been underrepresented, and boosting digital literacy rates,” he said.

Manalo said their discussions were “aligned with the Philippines’ priorities on agriculture, food security, promoting energy security as we transition to clean energy, boosting trade, and building resilience of our supply chains, as well as enhancing connectivity and digitalization.”


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