Philippine and American Defense officials discuss regional and maritime issues
MANILA – The Department of National Defense (DND) today said Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana talked with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin today.
In a statement, the DND said the two defense officials talked about the prevailing situation in the West Philippine Sea and the recent developments in regional security.
“Both are looking forward to the conduct of Exercise Balikatan, which was cancelled last year,” the statement said.
The DND said Secretary Austin underscored the importance of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and expressed hopes that the agreement will be continued. Secretary Lorenzana promised to discuss the matter with the President as the final approval depends on the chief executive.
Secretary Lorenzana requested Secretary Austin’s assistance to facilitate the delivery of Moderna vaccines the Philippines earlier ordered. His American counterpart was reported to have replied he would look into the issue and call the attention of the concerned office.
Meanwhile, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said both Defense officials reaffirmed their shared commitment to the U.S.-Philippine alliance.
He said Secretaries Austin and Lorenzana talked about the prevailing situation in the South China Sea and the recent massing of the People’s Republic of China’s maritime militia vessels at Whitsun Reef.
“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,” he said.
He added Secretary Austin proposed several measures to further deepen defense cooperation between the United States of America and the Philippines, “including by enhancing situational awareness of threats in the South China Sea.”
Spokesman Kirby said the two Defense officials affirmed the importance of the U.S.-Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement.
“They pledged to stay in close contact,” Mr. Kirby concluded. (Melo M. Acuña)
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin and Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana. (US Department of Defense Photo/File Photo/Melo Acuna)