US strengthens ties with the Philippines
By Pacific Island Times News Staff
The U.S. Department of Defense has pledged to strengthen the U.S.-Philippines partnership "based on the shared vision of an open, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific, free from coercion or bullying."
"The United States remains unwavering in our support for a strong and independent Philippines that can defend its sovereignty, ensure prosperity for its people and strengthen security in the region," Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said after his meeting with his Philippine counterpart, Jose C. Faustino Jr., at Camp Smith in Hawaii.
The U.S. and the Philippines are long-time allies. They have continued their partnership even after the U.S. Clark Air Base and the Subic Naval Base shut down in 1991 following the Philippine Senate's vote to reject the renewal of the Military Bases Agreement.
Austin said the two countries participate in more than 300 exercises every year under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement signed in 2014.
The training ranges in size from the huge Balikatan exercise to port visits to exchanges of experts. "This cooperation goes on every day, and it supports our alliance and our obligations under the mutual defense treaty," he said.
"Our U.S. and Philippine Visiting Forces Agreement allows us to continue working closely together and it lets us respond quickly to disasters and crises," Austin said.
"By deepening our cooperation and modernizing our alliances, we can help secure the Philippines' future, tackle regional challenges and promote peace and security in the Indo-Pacific," the secretary said.
Faustino said the two countries "are working together to reach a common understanding of the importance of our defense alliances and what it means to recognize each other as equal partners in advancing our respective countries' interests and in promoting peace and prosperity in the region." Austin said the alliance between the U.S. and the Philippines is more than just about the mutual defense treaty.
There are profound bonds between the people of the Philippines and the United States. "This includes strong friendships between our countries' uniformed personnel and our veteran communities, and our proud diaspora communities immeasurably strengthen our two proud democracies and our partnership," he said.
Faustino and Austin said the priority areas for the alliance included strengthening mutual defense treaty commitments, enhancing maritime cooperation and building on the mutual defense posture. They also said it was necessary to improve interoperability and information sharing.