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  • Writer's pictureOlga Nesterova

Fortifying the U.S.-Philippines Alliance: Strengthening Security and Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III | AFP, Saul Loeb
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III | AFP, Saul Loeb

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III received Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at the Pentagon, marking a significant moment in the ongoing partnership between the United States and the Philippines.

Amidst a backdrop of shared history and mutual interests, Secretary Austin and President Marcos delved into discussions highlighting the robustness of the U.S.-Philippines Alliance.

Central to their talks was the reaffirmation of the alliance's historic strength and its evolution towards addressing contemporary challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.

Both leaders articulated their commitment to expanding and modernizing the alliance to align with their shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific. This vision encompasses not only security considerations but also economic prosperity and adherence to international norms and standards.

Secretary Austin underscored the importance of enhancing interoperability between the armed forces of both nations. He emphasized the significance of the President's Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2025, which seeks substantial investment in executing projects at Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites. This investment, totaling $128 million, represents a significant step forward in bolstering the infrastructure necessary to facilitate closer military cooperation between the United States and the Philippines.

In addition to infrastructure development, Secretary Austin reiterated the United States' unwavering support for Philippine military modernization efforts. Through bilateral initiatives and ongoing dialogue, both countries are poised to finalize a multi-year Security Sector Assistance Roadmap, further solidifying their commitment to enhancing the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The leaders also explored avenues for deepening bilateral planning and operational cooperation, with a particular focus on maritime security in the South China Sea. Recognizing the importance of upholding international law and safeguarding freedom of navigation, they agreed to increase the frequency of combined maritime activities, including joint patrols. These collaborative efforts aim to bolster the Philippines' ability to assert its lawful rights and interests in its territorial waters.

Furthermore, Secretary Austin and President Marcos commended the recent maritime cooperative activity within the Philippine exclusive economic zone, which involved Australia, Japan, and the United States. This joint endeavor serves as a testament to the growing network of like-minded nations committed to upholding shared principles, including the rule of law and respect for territorial sovereignty.

Amidst discussions on regional security dynamics, Secretary Austin reaffirmed the United States' steadfast support for the Philippines in defending its sovereign rights and jurisdiction. He reiterated the breadth of the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty, which extends to both countries' armed forces, public vessels, and aircraft, including those of its Coast Guard, anywhere in the Pacific.

Today's meeting, the second between Secretary Austin and President Marcos at the Pentagon in less than a year, symbolizes the enduring commitment of both nations to stand shoulder-to-shoulder as allies. It builds upon the momentum generated by recent high-level engagements, including President Biden's bilateral meeting with President Marcos and the United States-Japan-Philippines trilateral leaders' summit.

The participation of Philippine Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro Jr., Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique A. Manalo, and Philippine National Security Advisor Eduardo M. Año underscored the comprehensive nature of the discussions. Earlier in the day, Secretary Austin joined Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, and their Philippine counterparts at the State Department, further deepening coordination on shared regional priorities.

As both nations navigate complex geopolitical challenges, today's engagements serve as a testament to the enduring strength of the U.S.-Philippines Alliance and shared commitment to regional security and stability.

Source: DoD, Pentagon, April 12, 2024


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