We have your back in South China Sea – Austin to Marcos
WASHINGTON, D, United States — “We are family… We will always have your back,’ US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Wednesday (Thursday Manila time) .”
Austin made the remark in his opening statement before his meeting with Marcos at the Pentagon, where he cited how the Philippines has been an “indispensable friend and ally” of the US “for decades.”
“Our alliance is rooted in our common democratic values and it draws strength from the deep bonds between our peoples. And I said before Mr. President, we’re more than allies. We’re family,” he said.
“We share a common vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific because a region governed by rules and rights help provide security and prosperity for our two countries and for the whole region,” Austin stressed.
Austin reiterated Washington’s ironclad commitment to the defense of the Philippines, adding that the two nations’ Mutual Defense Treaty applies to armed attacks against the Philippines’ armed forces, coast guard vessels, public vessels, or aircraft in the Pacific, including anywhere in the South China Sea.
“So make no mistake, Mr. President. We will always have your back in the South China Sea or elsewhere in the region,” Austin emphasized.
Austin said he would like to discuss with Marcos the recent expansion of the US and the Philippines’ Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement to four new sites across the Philippines.
He added he would also like to talk about the completion of the new bilateral defense guidelines.
The US official then expressed gratitude to Marcos for his “enduring commitment” to modernizing the US-Philippine alliance.
For his part, Marcos cited the Philippines’ “long-standing and very robust relationship” with the US, saying this was developed over many years.
“The call of the times, unfortunately, is asking for us to meet these new challenges that perhaps we have not faced before. And that’s why it is very important that it is continuing — exchanges that we have started,” he said.
Marcos said he was looking forward to a “very bright future” between Manila and Washington, whose partnership is founded on long experience, friendship, and familial relations.
He pointed out how “people-to-people” exchanges between the two countries have been “ongoing at every level.”
Austin and Marcos met at the Pentagon, where the Philippine leader was accorded full honors upon arrival.
Marcos is in Washington, DC, for a five-day official visit to the US.
Pentagon is the headquarters building of the US Department of Defense in Arlington County in Virginia.