US, PHL reaffirm alliance, set bilateral strategic dialogue

PHILIPPINES DEFENSE Secretary Delfin Lorenzana with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in Pentagon

By Jeanne Michael Penaranda
WASHINGTON – Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and his American counterpart, State Secretary Antony Blinken, are seeking to ramp up the two nations’ bilateral engagement following a meeting here.
In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the top diplomats agreed to hold their Bilateral Strategic Dialogue (BSD) in November and the 2 Plus 2 Ministerial Dialogue in early 2022.
ThIs as Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III,  in a meeting also in Washington,  reaffirmed their commitment to further enhance their defense relations.

Lorenzana and Austin made this commitment during a meeting in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).

The BSD is a key mechanism for consultation and exchange of views on a broad range of bilateral, regional, and global issues, and discussion on political, security, and economic cooperation between Manila and Washington DC.

The 2 Plus 2 Ministerial Dialogue, on the other hand, involves a joint meeting between the foreign and defense ministers of the two countries.

“We want to ramp up our bilateral engagement to ensure that our alliance remains strong and resilient,” Locsin said during his meeting with Blinken at the State Department in Washington DC.

He underscored the importance of the Mutual Defense Treaty, emphasizing the need for the Philippines to enhance its defense capabilities to keep its treaty commitments.

Locsin met Blinken in person for the first time during his working visit to the US on September 10.

Both officials reaffirmed the long-standing alliance and partnership between the Philippines and the United States as the two countries celebrate 75 years of diplomatic relations and the 70th anniversary of the MDT.

Locsin also conveyed President Rodrigo Duterte’s “deep appreciation” for the more than six million vaccines donated by the US government to Manila.

“Following their bilateral meeting in Manila last 30 July 2021, Secretary Lorenzana met with his counterpart, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, on 10 September in Washington DC where both sides reaffirmed their commitment to further enhance the defense relations between the two countries,” Department of National Defense (DND) spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement.

Signed on Aug. 30, 1951, the MDT is an accord that stipulates that the Philippines and the US would support each other if either of them were to be attacked by an external party.

Lorenzana said both sides now have a better appreciation of each country’s defense and security priorities and have come to an understanding of shared goals for the alliance and the region.

The two defense secretaries also exchanged views on regional issues and concerns and agreed on common positions and approaches. Austin expressed his appreciation for the Philippine decision to restore the Agreement Regarding the Treatment of US Armed Forces

Visiting the Philippines (VFA), which signals a commitment by both sides to strengthen the long-standing alliance.

Aside from boosting security ties and defense cooperation between the two countries, the defense secretaries discussed developments in the South China Sea, with Austin reaffirming the US’ commitments to the Philippines under the MDT.

Both Lorenzana and Austin also agreed to convene the Bilateral Strategic Dialogue to further discuss shared priorities for the alliance and encouraged their respective armed forces to sustain cooperation under the Mutual Defense Board – Security Engagement Board.

“Relatedly, both sides agreed to work on a bilateral maritime framework that advances cooperation in the maritime domain, and to resume projects in approved Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) locations in the Philippines,” Andolong said.

The meeting ended with the two defense officials reaffirming the friendship, partnership, and alliance between the Philippines and the US.

Both sides reaffirmed that the engagement is not just a fulfillment of obligations under the MDT but a willing commitment to keep the alliance ironclad.