Read this in The Manila Times digital edition.
THE Philippines and United States defense officials met on Friday to discuss ways of strengthening commitments under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) amid rising concerns in the West Philippine Sea and tensions with China.
The meeting between US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin 3rd and Philippine Defense department Officer in Charge Jose Faustino Jr. was held at the US Indo-Pacific Command in Honolulu, Hawaii.
In their joint press conference after the meeting, the two said they looked to enhance the cooperation and reaffirmed their commitment.
SIDE BY SIDE US Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin 3rd and his Philippine counterpart Jose C. Faustino Jr. hold a news conference in Hawaii on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 (Friday in Manila). The two met to discuss the Mutual Defense Treaty between the two countries and other security concerns. SCREENGRAB FROM US DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE WEBSITE
“We discussed several priority areas for the alliance including strengthening our MDT commitments and enhancing maritime cooperation, and building on our mutual defense posture, and improving interoperability and information sharing,” Austin said.
The MDT, which was signed by the Philippines and the US on Aug. 30, 1951, in Washington, stipulates that one nation must come to the other’s aid if one is attacked by a foreign aggressor.
During the meeting, the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), as well as the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), was also discussed, Austin said.
“We agreed on a number of ways to continue to grow that cooperation. As you know we’ve been able to move forward on VFA, and we discussed EDCA,” he said.
The EDCA aims to promote, among other things, interoperability between the two allies, the modernization of the Philippine military and building its capacity for external defense, and improving humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR).
The pact allows US forces, contractors, vehicles, vessels and aircraft to conduct activities on agreed locations inside Philippine military bases.
Under the VFA, US troops will train and advise their Philippine counterparts in disaster response and fighting terrorism. It does not allow US forces to take part in combat operations.
EDCA serves as a supplemental agreement to the VFA.
Austin noted that the two allies share a vision of an open, secure, and prosperous Indo-Pacific free from coercion or intimidation.
Faustino said the Philippines continues to engage like-minded countries to ensure that the rules based on an international order will prevail in easing the tension in the West Philippine Sea, which is being claimed by China.
He also said that the Philippines will support the US when it comes to protecting Taiwan from Chinese aggression.
Faustino said that while the Philippines adheres to the One China Policy, it is important for the MDT to be updated to conform to the prevailing security situation in the Indo-Pacific region.