WASHINGTON -- Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder provided the following readout:
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III co-chaired the third U.S.-Philippines 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue alongside Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of National Defense Carlito Galvez, and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo today in Washington, D.C. The four leaders forged new and deeper cooperation across all areas of the U.S.-Philippines alliance, as the two countries strive toward a shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region and rules-based international order.
The Secretaries reaffirmed their unwavering alliance commitments under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty to defend against external armed attack in the Pacific including the South China Sea. They reiterated that they consider their respective Coast Guards to be components of their armed forces. The Secretaries committed to expeditiously conclude the U.S.-Philippines Bilateral Defense Guidelines, which charts our vision for alliance cooperation across all operational domains, including space and cyberspace.
As the United States and the Philippines make critical strides to deepen alliance interoperability, Secretary Austin and Secretary Galvez discussed plans to swiftly operationalize the four new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites at Naval Base Camilo Osias in Santa Ana, Cagayan; Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela; Balabac Island in Palawan; and Lal-lo Airport in Cagayan. In addition to the five existing EDCA locations, these new sites will support combined training, exercises, and other operational activities between the U.S. and Philippine Armed Forces to allow both countries to rapidly respond to a range of shared challenges — including natural disasters — in the Philippines and across the Indo-Pacific region.
Secretary Austin and Secretary Galvez, who will meet again tomorrow to discuss core defense initiatives in greater detail, noted recent concerning operational behavior and gray-zone activities in the South China Sea and committed to regularize combined maritime activities in the South China Sea. The two leaders discussed opportunities to conduct a joint U.S.-Philippines sail in the South China Sea during Exercise BALIKATAN, which commenced on April 11 and is the largest and most complex iteration of the exercise to date, featuring more than 17,000 participating troops. Secretary Austin reaffirmed the Department’s commitment to bolstering the Philippines’ defense capabilities and capacity to resist coercion as the allies develop a Security Sector Assistance Roadmap.
The leaders discussed ways to coordinate more closely with like-minded nations — including Australia and Japan — to strengthen shared principles of the rule of law, freedom of the seas, and respect for territorial sovereignty today and far into the future. Today’s 2+2 Ministerial reaffirmed the United States and the Philippines’ enduring commitment to stand shoulder-to-shoulder as allies to bring greater security, prosperity, and stability to the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.