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NEWS | Sept. 16, 2023

Philippines and U.S. Hold Annual Mutual Defense and Security Engagement Boards

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command

CAMP AGUINALDO, Philippines — Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and Adm. John Aquilino, Commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, led the 2023 Mutual Defense Board and Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB) at Camp Aguinaldo, Philippines, Sept. 14. 

The annual convening of the MDB-SEB highlights the long legacy of sustained relations between the U.S. and Philippine militaries and concludes a years’ worth of bilateral planning and training between the allied forces. During the meeting, U.S. and Philippine leaders agreed to over 500 joint activities scheduled for 2024 to include exercises, high-level exchanges between the allied nations and capability building in maritime security, combatting terrorism and transnational crime, cyber security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and many other national security interests. 

“These underscore the continued partnership and collaboration between the Philippines and the United States in enhancing national defense capabilities, as well as the shared commitment to regional security and disaster response efforts,” Brawner said. “It signifies our commitment to further strengthen our cooperation, ensuring that both militaries are equipped and well-prepared to respond to evolving security challenges.” 

The successful completion of the MDB-SEB furthers cooperation between the U.S. and the Philippines and renews their shared commitment to the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and the joint pursuit of a free and open Indo-Pacific region against a backdrop of a rules-based international order. 

In the days preceding the meeting, Brawner and Aquilino visited three Enhanced Defense Cooperation Arrangement (EDCA) sites and their surrounding communities: Lal-lo Airport, Cagayan; Naval Base Camilo Osias, Santa Ana, Cagayan; and Basa Air Base, Pampanga.   

“All of the EDCA sites are sovereign Philippine territory. We identified a number of projects that benefit the AFP and allow the United States and the Philippines to operate together,” said Aquilino during the site visit at Basa Air Base. “Lal-lo airport was a place where we came together to support the most recent humanitarian assistance effort to the Philippine people. This is the best example of why these sites are important.” 

During the MDB-SEB, Brawner and Aquilino agreed to 63 new projects within the nine existing EDCA sites. These locations strengthen the interoperability of the U.S. and Philippine Armed Forces, enabling the forces to respond more seamlessly together to address a range of shared challenges in the Indo-Pacific region. 

The MDB was established in 1958 and the SEB was established in 2006. Together, the two boards form the framework that directs and enables defense and security cooperation between the U.S. and Philippine militaries. 

As friends and allies, the United States and the Philippines will continue to work in lockstep to rapidly pursue modernization projects and opportunities to plan and train together to support our treaty commitments and shared vision for a more peaceful, secure, and prosperous region. 

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