Lorenzana, Pentagon chief discuss massing of Chinese maritime militia in Julian Felipe Reef

National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and United States Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin II talked via telephone on April 10.

Among the topics discussed was the situation in the South China Sea and the recent massing of People’s Republic of China (PRC) maritime militia vessels at Julian Felipe Reef (Whitsun Reef) in West Philippine Sea.

“Secretary Austin reiterated the U.S. commitment to maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific, rooted in international law, including the U.N Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Secretary proposed several measures to deepen defense cooperation between the United States and the Philippines, including by enhancing situational awareness of threats in the South China Sea,” the Pentagon said in a release.

The Department of National Defense (DND) said the two officials “are looking forward to the conduct of Exercise Balikatan, which was cancelled last year.”

“Sec Austin reiterated the importance of the VFA and hopes that it would be continued. Secretary Lorenzana committed to discuss the matter with the President as the final approval lies with him,” DND said.

“Secretary Lorenzana likewise sought the assistance of Secretary Austin to expedite the delivery of the Moderna vaccines the country has ordered. To which, Secretary Austin replied that he would look into the issue and bring it to the attention of the office concerned,” the DND added.