US reaffirms ‘ironclad’ commitment to PHL amid row in South China Sea
Austin and Lorenzana affirmed the vital importance of ensuring peace and stability in the South China Sea, the US Defense Department added.
The two defense officials also agreed to strengthen their MDT commitments through the development of bilateral defense guidelines, enhance maritime cooperation, and improve interoperability and information sharing by exercising new capabilities.
“At the Pentagon with US Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III for another bilateral meeting to discuss ways to continue to deepen cooperation under the US-Philippines alliance,” he said on his Facebook page.
It was the third time Lorenzana personally met with Austin – once in Manila and twice in Washington DC.
The two discussed strengthening mutual defense treaty commitments, enhancing maritime cooperation, and improving interoperability in information sharing.
A statement released by the US defense department said Austin lauded Lorenzana for advancing some of the alliance’s initiatives.
“I know that our teams have been meeting frequently… over the past year, and they’ve done a great deal to advance some of the forward-looking alliance initiatives that you and I have discussed,” he said.
He added that this is a testament to the strength of the US-Philippines alliance and friendship and Lorenzana’s leadership.
Austin pointed to the size of the joint US-Philippine Exercise Balikatan – the first since the beginning of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic – as an example of the vitality of the alliance between the nations.
“Despite the pandemic, this was one of the largest of these exercises ever, including exercising a new range of capabilities,” he said. “And that just underscores our shared commitment to this alliance, and that commitment is ironclad.”
Austin said Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine points to the need for countries to stand together to defend the international, rules-based architecture that has served the world well since the end of World War II. (Jeanne Michael Penaranda)