United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III has reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the Philippines under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and emphasized US support in case of attacks.
“We (have) note that the MDT applies to armed attacks on either of our Armed Forces, public vessels or aircraft anywhere in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea. We discussed concrete actions to address destabilizing activities in the waters surrounding the Philippines including the West Philippine Sea,” Austin said in a joint press conference with Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. held shortly after their recent meeting in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.
Austin assured they are “committed to strengthening our mutual capacities to resist armed attack,” including the ongoing efforts to modernize the Philippine-US alliance.
“These efforts are especially important as (the) People’s Republic of China continues to advance its illegitimate claims in the West Philippine Sea,” he added with stress.
The US Defense chief also expressed hope for a brighter future for the two nations’ alliance in working “to defend our shared values of freedom, democracy and human dignity.”
Austin said US President Joseph Biden has made it very clear that American commitment to Philippine defense is iron clad, and that “our alliance makes both of our democracies more secure and helps uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific and today we discussed ways to make this vital alliance even stronger.”
Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez, for his part said the visit of his US counterpart to the country signifies a strong bond and enduring partnership between the Philippines and the United States, particularly in the areas of humanitarian assistance, economic development and peace and security among others.
This commitment will allow the relationship between the two countries to become “stronger and robust,” he said, adding that Austin’s visit “symbolizes the US government’s steadfast commitment to help its allies in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
During their meeting, Galvez said their priorities include the full implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) by completing the ongoing projects. This includes agreement to designate new sites where EDCA sites may be developed.
Galvez and Austin also agreed to deepen their bilateral cooperation to support the Philippines’ defense capability needs as well as the alliance between the two nations. He likewise pledged to continue working towards maintaining a stable, rules-based, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region along with partner countries.
“We strongly oppose any unilateral action or attempt to disrupt current world order, and share the same views that all countries should resolve issues peacefully and adhere to international law, particularly the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS,” he stressed. ###