Duterte, US defense chief hold ‘open, frank’ dialogue, agree to strengthen alliance
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had an “open and frank” discussion on the future direction of Manila and Washington’s ties, and agreed to boost alliance in issues including the pandemic response.
“President Duterte and Secretary Austin had an open and frank discussion on the status and future direction of Philippine-US engagement as the two countries commemorate this year the 75th Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations and 70th Anniversary of the Philipines-US Mutual Defense Treaty,” Malacañang said in a statement late Thursday.
Duterte and Austin likewise agreed to strengthen the two nations’ alliance “through enhanced communication and greater cooperation” in areas of pandemic response, combating transnational crimes, including the war on illegal drugs, maritime domain awareness, the rule of law, and trade and investments.
Malacañang said the President thanked the US for its assistance to the Philippines’ fight against COVID-19.
The Philippines received over 3 million doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine from the US through the COVAX facility. These jabs were delivered in two batches on July 16 and 17.
Austin, meanwhile, said he has “great respect” for the Filipino people and that the “US wants a strong relationship with the Philippines as an equal sovereign partner.”
The US defense chief also conveyed US President Joe Biden’s greetings to the President. Duterte likewise “conveyed well wishes” for his US counterpart.
Austin is on an official visit to Manila from July 29 to 30. He is scheduled to meet with Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana and Foreign Affairs Sec. Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Friday.
Malacañang said Austin’s courtesy call on Duterte, the first made by a Cabinet administration of the Biden administration, lasted 75 minutes.
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