Expanded EDCA mulled in talks

During the meeting, both sides also explored the possibility of working with other partner countries in addressing common challenges.

DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong

The Philippines and the United States aim for deeper bilateral ties under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and are slated to explore the possibility of working with other partner countries in addressing common security challenges.

Department of National Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said DND officer-in-change Senior Undersecretary Jose Faustino Jr. and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III spoke to each other in a phone call over the weekend, marking the first bilateral engagement of both officials under the Marcos administration.

During the meeting, both sides also explored the possibility of working with other partner countries in addressing common challenges.

At the moment, the Philippines has defense cooperation only with the Philippines and Australia.

Andolong said both officials reaffirmed their commitment to the Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty.

Among the topics discussed include updates on security assistance cooperation as well as the reiteration of the US government’s “ironclad” alliance between the two countries and joint defense capability programs.

Both officials also exchanged views on recent security developments in their respective regions.

Strong security bond

Faustino maintained the MTD remains a strong basis for the Philippines-US alliance.

Andolong said Faustino likewise mentioned that the Philippines has called for the “exercise of restraint and expressed hope that matters would be resolved through diplomatic means.”

Faustino noted the DND will tirelessly implement its mandate of protecting the country’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and sovereign rights.

Meanwhile, Austin said he appreciates Faustino’s support to the bilateral defense cooperation between the Philippines and the US, particularly in spearheading the return of regular military exercises and laying the groundwork for responsive maritime security cooperation between the two countries.

Andolong said both defense officials are eyeing an in-person meeting to further discuss their next steps on enhancing the defense and security strategies of the two nations.

“The meeting ended with the two officials reaffirming the valued friendship, partnership, and alliance between the Philippines and the US,” he added.

Shared values

Maintaining regional stability and freedom of navigation as components of both countries’ bilateral defense partnership was also highlighted during a meeting between Faustino and US Ambassador MaryKay Carlson at Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

Both sides likewise exchanged views on regional security developments and discussed recent high-level visits of US senior officials to the Philippines.

Faustino and Carlson have also agreed on the importance of continuing the long-standing partnership between the two countries based on their common values.

Carlson said the Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty is an important and well-rounded document that provides for both countries’ collective security.

“Broadening cooperation with like-minded countries does not dilute the Philippines-US bilateral defense partnership, and bolsters the efforts of both countries,” she said.

While Faustino reaffirmed the Philippines’ commitment to respecting the treaty which has been the basis for the country’s alliance and joint defense capability programs with the US.

It will remain as the sole defense treaty between the Philippines and the US, he added.

Providing updates on the Armed Forces of the Philippines modernization program, Faustino recommended the exploration of potential cooperative activities with the US on research and development — viewing to support the Self-Reliant Defense Posture program of the DND.

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