Philippines, US agree to bring joint security, defense efforts to higher gear

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03:10 PM January 29th, 2012

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January 29th, 2012 03:10 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Citing the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty as the basis for their alliance, the Philippines and the United States have agreed to shift into higher gear their cooperation in maritime security, defense and law enforcement, among other areas, during their second bilateral strategic dialogue, held on January 27 in Washington.

In a joint statement, the two allies reaffirmed their commitment to an “invigorated and expanded alliance capable of addressing 21st century challenges.”

“We reinforced the significance of our Mutual Defense Treaty as the basis for the alliance and the treaty’s continued relevance to the peace, security and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific. We committed to further enhance cooperation, including in security, defense, commerce, law enforcement, human rights, and disaster relief. We also agreed to deepen and broaden our maritime cooperation,” they noted.

The two sides also “emphasized the importance of deepening bilateral trade and investment ties to increase prosperity for the people in both countries.  The two governments said they reviewed their ongoing collaboration in “the Partnership for Growth and the (US government-run) Millennium Challenge Corporation.”

During the dialogue, the US “recognized the efforts being taken by the Philippine government in resolving human rights cases and discussed positive developments in the prosecution of abuses.”

Manila and Washington “emphasized a mutual commitment to these efforts.”

The allies saw dialogue as “an opportunity to consult and exchange views on a broad range of bilateral, regional and global issues, reflecting our common values and interests.”

The meeting was co-chaired by Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Erlinda Basilio, Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino (for the Philippines) and Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and Acting Defense Assistant Secretary Peter Lavoy (for the US).

The two sides announced that high-level consultations would continue this March at a joint ministerial meeting between US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

They highlighted “upcoming opportunities for further high-level engagements,” including official visits to Manila in February by US Assistant Secretary of State for Political and Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro and Deputy US Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis.

In January 2011, Manila hosted the first bilateral strategic dialogue between the two countries.

Del Rosario called the dialogue a “clear manifestation of both countries’ resolve to enhance relations.”

The meeting aims to “affirm the strength of the Philippine-US alliance and the dynamic partnership for peace, security, stability and prosperity,” the Department of Foreign Affairs chief said.

He added: “With a changing regional and global environment, the Philippines and the US are now looking forward to shifting the partnership into higher gear at a time when our ties have become broad-based, modern, mature and resilient.”

US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr. said that “through this dialogue, our two governments will affirm our commitment to our longstanding alliance and to continuing our work as equal partners, discuss current challenges and identify new areas for cooperation.”

Kurt Campbell, US Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said the summits aimed to “provide both sides opportunities to work together to strengthen regional institutions, define our shared agendas and set a course for a future of mutual support and cooperation.”

Campbell disclosed that during a meeting with then Armed Forces chief of staff, Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr., both “agreed that the issue of the South China Sea is one that is best addressed through multilateral mechanisms and peaceful dialogues.”

In a related development, the militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) assailed on Sunday the port calls in Manila and Cebu of two US warships, saying they were “already part of the heightened US power projection in Asia, as stated in the new US defense strategy.”

Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said “even without a formal basing agreement, the US uses access agreements and training exercises so that at any time the US has forces in our country.”

“The US may not even need formal bases given the access and virtual basing opportunities they have now,” Reyes said, adding the Aquino administration’s foreign policy is “certainly no better than the Arroyo administration’s.”

The destroyers USS Wayne Meyer and USS Chafee were scheduled to arrive yesterday (Jan. 29) in Manila and Cebu City, respectively.

The DFA has repeatedly said the Philippine port calls by American warships for routine replenishment, maintenance of shipboard systems and crew liberty, are covered by the Visiting Forces Agreement between Manila and Washington.

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