WASHINGTON -- Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby provided the following readout:
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Philippines Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana held an introductory phone call during which they discussed a number of priority of bilateral defense issues for both countries.
Secretary Austin affirmed the U.S. commitment to the U.S.-Philippines alliance and our bilateral Mutual Defense Treaty and Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), highlighting the value the VFA brings to both countries. The Secretaries discussed the importance of enhancing the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ capabilities and increasing interoperability between our two militaries through a variety of bilateral security cooperation activities.
The Secretaries also discussed regional security challenges, to include the South China Sea, counterterrorism, and maritime security, and affirmed the importance of upholding international rules and norms, to include the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal ruling.