The United States and the Philippines have made rapid strides in upgrading their alliance, and are charging ahead to do more, defense leaders from both countries said at the Pentagon April 13.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III met with Carlito Galvez Jr., senior undersecretary and officer in charge of the Department of National Defense of the Philippines, to deepen military-to-military contacts between the two nations.
The meeting came as the Balikatan exercise kicked off in the Philippines. It is the largest joint exercise in years.
The Pentagon meeting follows the so-called two-plus-two meetings at the State Department April 12 that included foreign policy leaders as well.
“This is an historic moment for our alliances as we take critical steps together to deepen our ties and strengthen peace and stability in the region,” Austin said. “We share our vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific — one grounded in transparency, freedom of navigation, the rule of law, respect for sovereignty and the peaceful resolution of disputes.”
Spotlight: Focus on Indo-Pacific
These principles are being challenged in many places around the globe. “We’ve seen a troubling increase in coercion and dangerous operational behavior, including in the South China Sea,” the secretary said.
The U.S.-Philippines alliance is deeply committed to these principles that have served the region and the globe so well. Austin carefully spelled out what the alliance includes. “As we’ve made abundantly clear, the mutual defense treaty applies to armed attacks on either of our armed forces, or public vessels or aircraft anywhere in the South China Sea,” he said.
The two nations have also made important progress in bolstering the capabilities and capacities of the respective armed forces to resist coercion and gray zone aggression.
“We’re close to finalizing a security sector assistance roadmap that charts a path forward to strengthen deterrence and align our defense investments with the evolving security environment,” the secretary said. “And … we’re also expanding our cooperation under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which will make our armed forces more flexible and more resilient and supports our ability to train and operate together.”
Text credit: Jim Garamone DOD News
Photo credit: DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Alexander Kubitza. Washington, D.C. – Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (right) stands with Philippine Officer in Charge of the Department of National Defense Carlito Galvez prior to a bilateral exchange at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., April 12, 2023.