US Defense chief says PH more than an ally: We’re family

US Defense chief says PH more than an ally: We’re family

/ 02:32 AM April 13, 2024

Marcos: PH-US-Japan summit 'a natural progression' of deeper ties

President Joe Biden, center, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., left, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, right, attend a trilateral meeting in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, April 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

WASHINGTON, D.C., United States — Relations between the Philippines and the United States (US) go beyond being mere allies, with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin saying that the two countries are family.

During the three-plus-three meeting between the US and the Philippines’ Foreign secretaries, Defense secretaries, and National Security Advisors on Friday morning (Eastern time), Austin said he will be giving Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. the same message when he accompanies him to the Pentagon later.


READ: Biden reiterates: Any attack on PH aircraft, ship in SCS will invoke MDT 


“Under the leadership of President (Joe) Biden and President Marcos, our alliance is stronger than ever.  And today, we’ll discuss a whole-of-government vision for this alliance,” Austin said in his message.

“And later today, I’ll be hosting President Marcos at the Pentagon, and I’ll share with you what I’m going to tell him, and that is that the United States and the Philippines are more than allies – we’re family,” he added.

Philippine Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro meanwhile said he hopes the bond of this ‘family’ gets stronger with these discussions.

“It will be an opportunity to have a fresh, open, and candid discussion of our departments’ objectives in line of the broader strategy of a free and open Indo-Pacific, because this is the area where our interests converge,” Teodoro said.

“And in doing so, we hope that the family becomes a stronger family with bonds of a shared vision, not only for today but for the future generations.  Thank you very much,” he added.

Mutual Defense Treaty


Both US State Secretary Antony Blinken and Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo also touched on the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), or the agreement between the Philippines and US that both countries will assist each other in case of a military attack from a third party.

The MDT has been discussed recently due to questions on whether the water cannon attack being done by the Chinese Coast Guard on Philippine vessels over the West Philippine Sea (WPS) constitutes a third-party attack, and if it could activate the MDT already.

READ: US, Japan, PH to China: Stop ‘coercive use’ of coast guard in SCS

“And I think today’s meeting – an unprecedented 3+3 – reflects the growing and deepening cooperation between our countries on a broad array of issues, and of course our shared commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific, including in the South China Seas,” Blinken said.

“We very much welcome this opportunity to pursue that cooperation, collaboration, and of course we stand with the Philippines in our ironclad defense commitments, including the Mutual Defense Treaty,” he added.

Manalo responded by noting the importance of the meeting, adding that the Philippines remains determined to uphold its sovereignty over islands in the WPS that are inside the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“I just wanted to mention that we attach a lot of importance to this meeting, especially in the light of recent developments in the South China Sea, especially China’s escalation of its harassment resulting most recently in the injury of four Filipino seamen.  But more importantly is we are determined to assert our sovereign rights, especially within our Exclusive Economic Zone, and in accordance with the UNCLOS and the arbitral ruling,” Manalo said.

“So we also hope that this 3+3 meeting will be a regular event, and also reinforce our regular Bilateral Strategic Dialogue, as well as our ongoing maritime dialogue.  And finally, we do underscore the need to continue further clarificatory discussions on the MDT, as we think this would also help in deterring further escalation by China,” he added.

Security concerns have been raised during the bilateral meetings and the first-ever trilateral meeting between the Philippines, US, and Japan here, over the past two days. In the joint statement from Marcos, Biden, and Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, they announced that trilateral maritime exercises would start in 2025 to improve interoperability and ensure maritime security.

During the start of the meeting, Biden also reiterated that any attack on a Philippine aircraft, vessel, or armed force in the South China Sea will trigger the MDT.

One particular area in the WPS that was discussed is the Second Thomas Shoal or the Ayungin Shoal, which China says it owns.  According to the three leaders, this issue has already been settled — with the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) invalidating China’s nine-dash line territorial claim.

Ayungin Shoal, which sits around 315 kilometers from the tip of Palawan, is well within the West Philippine Sea, being inside the 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone of the country.

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However, China believes the Philippines is illegally occupying the shoal by deliberately running Navy ship BRP Sierra Madre on it in 1999. China also claimed that a former Philippine president promised to remove BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin, but President Marcos said he is not aware of such a deal.

TAGS: Allies, US

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