Top defense officials of the Philippines and the United States on Friday (Manila time) discussed strengthening their commitments to the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the two countries.
The discussion took place during a meeting between US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III and Philippine Defense officer-in-charge Jose Faustino Jr. at the US Indo-Pacific Command in Honolulu, Hawaii.
“We discussed several priority areas for the alliance including strengthening our MDT commitments and enhancing maritime cooperation, and building on our mutual defense posture, and improving interoperability and information sharing,” Austin said in a press conference.
Under the MDT, the two countries agreed that an armed attack in the Pacific Area on either the Philippines or the US would be dangerous and that they would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes.
Aside from this, the defense chiefs also discussed the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) during the meeting.
“Today, we agreed on number of ways to continue to grow that cooperation. As you know we’ve been able to move forward on VFA and we discussed EDCA,” Austin said.
EDCA allows US forces, contractors, vehicles, vessels and aircraft to conduct activities on agreed locations inside the Philippine military bases.
The VFA, meanwhile, allows US troops to train and advise the Philippine military in disaster response and its fight against terrorists. However under the VFA, US forces are not allowed to take part in combat operations.
EDCA is an agreement supplemental to the VFA.
According to Austin, the two countries share a vision of an open, secure, and prosperous Indo-Pacific free from coercion or bullying.
Faustino, for his part, said the Philippines continues to engage like-minded countries to ensure that the rules based on international order will prevail amid the tension in the West Philippine Sea.
Asked if the Philippines would help the US in protecting Taiwan from China amid tension, Faustino said the Philippines adheres to One China Policy and considers updating the MDT based on the dynamic security environment.
“It is also imperative to regularly update and exercise the Philippines-US mutual defense concept plan under the ambit of the MDT based on our dynamic security environment,” he said. —KBK, GMA News