PH-US pact on intel sharing taking shape
MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines and United States plan to sign an agreement on intelligence-sharing by next year, in a display of stronger relations between the two allies.
The Philippines and US held the 9th Bilateral Strategic Dialogue in Washington DC on Nov. 15 to 16 to discuss a wide range of issues, including conflict in the South China Sea. This was the first meeting between officials of the two countries since the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We intend to continue to build the capacity of the Philippine security forces, and prioritize concluding a General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) in the next year to complement information-sharing and equipment modernization efforts,” according to the readout released by the US Department of State.
There were no immediate available details on the GSOMIA.
The plan to sign an intel-sharing agreement comes as the Philippines and US confront mutual concerns in the South China Sea, where tension escalated as a result of Chinese assertiveness. Washington has also expressed deep concern over Chinese behavior in the Taiwan Strait, located north of the Philippines and near Taiwan which is another flashpoint.
Both sides acknowledged the need to enhance the defense capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, “more so given the prevailing geopolitical tensions, especially in the maritime areas of the Philippines.” The AFP is one of the weakest militaries in the region.
The two countries committed to “continue to implement infrastructure projects” at military bases under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and “explore additional sites for further development.”
The EDCA, which allows the US military to build facilities and preposition assets in some Philippine military bases, was signed in 2014 but implementation was stalled under the Duterte administration.
The escalation in defense engagement comes after Duterte, whose foreign policy pivot led to a tight embrace of China, aborted a plan to terminate the Philippines-US Visiting Forces Agreement, a key pact governing the presence of American troops in the Philippines.
The Philippines and US reaffirmed commitment to the 70-year-old Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), which requires both countries to defend each other in case of an armed attack by an external party.
Both sides agreed “to develop new bilateral defense guidelines that support a mutual understanding of roles, missions, and capabilities within the framework of the alliance” under the MDT.
“We intend to ensure the MDT’s continued relevance to addressing current and emerging threats,” they said.
The Philippines and US also recognized the importance of international law-based maritime order and renewed their rejection of China’s expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea.
They vowed to “further coordinate diplomatic efforts in building an international coalition” that supports a rules-based order.
Aside from stronger defense cooperation, the two countries committed to boost cooperation in dealing with new and emerging threats, including diseases, cyber crimes, and transnational criminal and terrorist networks.
Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel J. Kritenbrink led the discussions with Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Ely Ratner.
The Philippine delegation was led by Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez and Defense Undersecretary Cardozo Luna.
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