WASHINGTON -- U.S. and Philippine leaders met today to discuss the nations' military, economic and humanitarian partnership at a meeting in Washington.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, Philippine Officer in Charge of the Department of National Defense Carlito Galvez Jr. and Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique A. Manalo held a news conference today to discuss that meeting at the State Department in Washington.
The Mutual Defense Treaty between the U.S. and the Philippines, signed in 1951, "remains the bedrock of our cooperation," Austin said.
The treaty applies to armed attacks on either nation's armed forces or public vessels anywhere in the South China Sea, he said.
At today's meeting, discussions included modernizing the Philippine armed forces and operationalizing the four new sites in Palawan and northern Luzon under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which was signed on Feb. 1, he said.
Those four new sites are Naval Base Camilo Osias, Camp Melchor Dela Cruz, Balabac Island and Lal-lo Airport. The five existing sites are Cesar Basa Air Base, Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation, Lumbia Air Base, Antonio Bautista Air Base and Mactan Benito Ebuen Air Base.
These nine sites will support combined training exercises and military interoperability, Austin said, adding that by the end of fiscal year 2023, a forecasted $100 million in infrastructure will be invested at the sites.
"Those investments will spur job creation and economic growth in local Philippine communities," he said.
Today's discussion also focused on "near-term plans to complete a security-sector assistance roadmap to support the delivery of priority defense platforms over the next five to 10 years, including radar, unmanned aerial systems, military transport aircraft and coastal- and air-defense systems," Austin said.
Discussion included planning combined maritime activities with the U.S., Philippines and other ally and partner nations in the South China Sea later this year to enhance collective deterrence, he said.
Of note, Austin mentioned that more than 17,000 troops are participating in Exercise Balikatan. It is the largest and most complex iteration of that annual exercise which began 38 years ago.
Blinken touted the economic partnership, including the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity with the Philippines and other partners across east and south Asia, as well as Australia and New Zealand.
Manalo and Galvez lauded the humanitarian assistance the U.S. has provided, as well as economic and military cooperation.