‘Alliance stayed strong’ amid ‘challenges’: Locsin, Austin reaffirm PH-US ties
MANILA, Philippines — Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday reaffirmed the two countries’ commitment for stronger alliance, as they discussed Manila and Washington’s security cooperation.
“[Sec. Locsin and Sec. Austin] reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen the alliance and discussed updates in PH-US defense and security cooperation,” said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
On Friday afternoon, Austin paid a “productive visit” to the DFA’s main building, where he met with Locsin.
According to US Embassy to the Philippines Chargé d’affaires John Law, Locsin and Austin “reflected on the achievements of the bilateral relationship and the friendship between our two countries.”
They “discussed the breadth of the U.S.-Philippine bilateral relationship, spanning security, COVID-19 response, economy, education, culture, and people-to-people ties,” the embassy, meanwhile, said in a tweet.
.@SecDef Austin and SFA @teddyboylocsin discussed the breadth of the U.S.-Philippine bilateral relationship, spanning security, COVID-19 response, economy, education, culture, and people-to-people ties. #USPHThrivingAt75 #FriendsPartnersAllies @DFAPHL pic.twitter.com/G1369W8mRV
— U.S. Embassy in the Philippines (@USEmbassyPH) July 30, 2021
“The alliance has stayed strong and overcome challenges. It is vital to maintaining stability in the Asia-Pacific region. All the protagonists in the region, without a single exception, see a strong US presence as imperative to peace and stability in Southeast Asia,” Locsin said in his remarks on Austin’s visit to the Philippines.
“They are the precondition for mutually beneficial cooperation rather than destructive conflict among themselves,” he added.
Furthermore, he said Washington “has shown its commitment to fulfill its obligations to us under the alliance.”
“They have addressed issues arising from our security relationship with good faith,” Locsin went on. “Together, we have moved forward on the basis of common interest, shared values and mutual respect.”
During Austin’s visit to the DFA, Locsin also handed over to the US official the diplomatic note recalling the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which President Rodrigo Duterte earlier ordered terminated.
The President had decided to recall the order following his meeting with Austin in Malacañang Thursday night.
The Philippines and the US also signed on Friday an aeronautical and maritime search and rescue agreement, which the DFA described as “another milestone” in the two countries’ bilateral relations.
The agreement provides delimitations on search and rescue regions of the Philippines and US and “fosters stronger bilateral cooperation in maritime and aeronautical search and rescue.”
 SFA @teddyboylocsin & @USEmbassyPHDCM John Law sign the PH-US Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue (AMSAR) Agreement during the official visit of U.S. @SecDef Lloyd J. Austin III, another milestone for the PH-US bilateral relations.#PHUSThrivingAt75#DFAForgingAhead pic.twitter.com/6pc3Dz9HZj
— DFA Philippines (@DFAPHL) July 30, 2021
It also “enhances effectiveness in assisting persons, vessels, aircraft or other craft in distress,” according to the DFA.
Austin wrapped up his three-nation swing through Southeast Asia with a visit to the Philippines. Before his Manila trip, the US official also visited Singapore and Vietnam.
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