Closer Philippine-U.S. cooperation seen
Frank and open discussions between President Duterte and US Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin held
MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte had an open and frank discussion with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin on the status and future direction of the Philippines-U.S. engagement early Thursday evening as both countries mark this year the 75th Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations and 70th Anniversary of the Philippines-U.S. Mutual Defense Treaty.
In a statement, the Office of the President said they agreed that the alliance can “be further strengthened through enhanced communication and greater cooperation.” They went on with particulars in pandemic response, combatting transnational crimes, war on illegal drugs, maritime domain awareness, the rule of law, and trade and investments.
President Duterte was reported to have expressed appreciation for the American assistance to COVID-19 response, through the COVAX facility where the U.S. is the biggest contributor.
The Philippines earlier received more than three million vaccine doses under the COVAX facility.
Secretary Austin said he has great respect for the Filipino people and the U.S. wants “a strong relationship with the Philippines as an equal sovereign partner.”
He also relayed President Joe Biden’s greetings to the President and President Duterte conveyed his well wishes for his U.S. counterpart.
Secretary Austin is in Manila for an official visit from yesterday until today and now meets with Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana at the Department of National Defense and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr.
The courtesy call was upon request of the U. s. Embassy. It lasted for 75 minutes and the first made by a Cabinet Secretary of the Biden Administration. (Melo M. Acuña)
Visiting US Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin (left) greets President Rodrigo Duterte at Malacanang early Thursday evening during the former's courtesy call. (Malacanang Photo)