“The Secretaries discussed proposals to support the United States’ efforts to help modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines, improve maritime security capabilities and domain awareness, and provide rapid humanitarian assistance,” said in a joint press statement after the meeting of US Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper and Secretary of National Defense Delfin N. Lorenzana on November 19, 2019.
Esper and Lorenzana also confirmed their shared commitment to further deepen and expand defense cooperation by reinforcing respective national defense capabilities and interoperability, enhancing joint military exercises, disaster response initiatives, and cybersecurity awareness, and improving defense infrastructure through the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
They also reiterated the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT)’s applicability to the entire Pacific region, including the South China Sea (SCS).
“Both sides have committed to focus on developing capabilities and enhancing cooperation in both the maritime and aerial domains through the conduct of Philippines-U.S. Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board activities that address both traditional and non-traditional security challenges,” said in the joint statement.
“The Secretaries pledged to explore ways to increase our already robust defense cooperation by improving defense infrastructure and updating personnel and logistics procedures; adapting counterterrorism cooperation to evolving threats; and increasing operational communication and coordination,” it added.
Esper and Lorenzana also emphasized the importance of the rule of law, human rights, and fundamental freedoms.
Also reiterated was both countries’ commitment to uphold freedom of navigation, overflight, other lawful uses of the sea in the South China Sea, and stressed the importance of peacefully resolving disputes in accordance with international law, as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).