Lorenzana says rules-based order will be best for everyone
Lorenzana optimistic of US President Biden’s “Pivot to Asia” strategy
MANILA – Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana said when President Rodrigo Duterte decided to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement last February 2020 which caught the Americans by surprise, he said sans the VFA, “it is difficult to implement nor develop interoperability between the US and Philippine forces as agreed upon in the Mutual Defense Treaty.”
Against this backdrop, Secretary Lorenzana said they, at the Department of National Defense (DND) remain positive that the “U.S. – Philippine Alliance would remain strong” because the engagements are not limited to military alone but in trade and commerce, and education.
He referred to 2021 as the beginning of a new era for US-Philippine relations under President Joseph Biden “who seeks to reclaim America’s status as a world leader.”
“Being one of America’s allies in the Indo-Asia Pacific region, the Philippines may benefit from the Biden Administration’s anticipated ‘Pivot to Asia strategy,” he said in a video message sent to the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP)’s “Prospects for the Philippines 2021” forum.
He explained they welcome the change of leadership in the United States “hoping that the strong and reliable friendship between the Philippines and the United States would flourish even further.”
He recalled the alliance has endured multiple changes of administration on both sides amid numerous challenges in the relationship.
Secretary Lorenzana said the long-standing geopolitical rivalry between the United States and China “will surely continue to test our adeptness in balancing our relations with both countries.”
The Defense secretary added it is imperative for the Philippines to continuously engage with China not simply because of the existing cooperation in a number of areas “but also for the peaceful resolution of our competing claims in the South China Sea.” However, he added they also note the role of the United States as “a stabilizing force” in the Indo-Pacific region and that of being a counter-balance to China.
“We argue that maintaining a stable international rules-based order is in the interest of all concerned,” he explained. He also referred to the appointment of former US Ambassador to Manila Sung Kim to the State Department which he hopes would bring prudence and proper restraint in dealing with other countries’ domestic affairs.
He told FOCAP that the foundation of Philippines-United States alliance is the shared commitment for the preservation of democracy and protection of human rights and that “the Philippines has never reneged from such commitment.”
He added bilateral relation is always “two-way,” and that the Philippines needs to do its share in accomplishing its commitment to alliance and do its role in preserving the decades-old friendship.
The Philippines, according to Secretary Lorenzana must invest in the modernization and capability upgrade of its own Defense industry.
“We will continue to uphold our independent foreign policy to safeguard our sovereignty and national interests. We will maintain and enhance our existing alliance while exploring potential partnerships – all for the advancement of our country and the welfare of the Filipino people,” he concluded. (Melo M. Acuña)
Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana addressing FOCAP in a video message early Friday morning. (Screen grab from DND video/Melo M. Acuna)