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US defense chief says commitment to Phl security ironclad

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United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has reiterated that America’s commitment to Philippine security is ironclad, the US Embassy in Manila said.

Meeting with his Philippine counterpart, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., last Thursday, Austin reaffirmed the unwavering alliance between the US and the Philippines.

The visiting senior US official underscored that the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) extends to Philippine armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft anywhere in the South China Sea.  

During their meeting, both leaders exchanged views on shared regional security challenges in the Indo-Pacific and underscored the importance of close operational coordination.

Galvez and Austin also agreed to restart joint maritime patrols in the South China Sea to help address these challenges.

Austin expressed his appreciation for the Philippines’ approval of four new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) locations.

Galvez shared Austin’s sentiment that the EDCA is a key pillar of alliance cooperation and supports combined training, exercises, and interoperability between the two nations’ forces to respond more effectively to natural disasters and other crises, including in the South China Sea.  

Noting the $82 million that the United States has invested to date in infrastructure improvements at EDCA sites, both leaders agreed to move expeditiously to begin projects at the new EDCA sites. 

The Secretaries closed the meeting by discussing concrete opportunities to further strengthen the bilateral relationship together. They noted the importance of enhancing the scale and complexity of combined exercises, and identified opportunities to improve alliance planning for regional crises. Both leaders agreed to look at opportunities to include other likeminded partners in cooperative defense activities. Secretary Austin expressed the Department’s continuing commitment to support development of advanced capabilities for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.  

Secretary Austin and Secretary Galvez agreed to meet again in Spring 2023 at a Ministerial-level 2+2 meeting in Washington, D.C.

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