MANILA - The Philippines and the United States on Tuesday reaffirmed their commitment to their longtime alliance through the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).
The Department of National Defense, in a statement, said that new US Chargé d’Affaires in Manila Heather Variava in her introductory meeting with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana discussed bilateral defense relations between the two countries which, she reportedly said, "both enjoy deep and longstanding bonds."
Lorenzana meanwhile expressed appreciation for US aid in the Philippines' fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly providing vaccines through the COVAX Facility, an initiative that aims for equitable access to COVID-19 jabs for all.
The DND said both officials discussed recent developments in the region and how both countries can further strengthen their cooperation.
"They also discussed updates on upcoming bilateral defense activities, logistics cooperation, particularly on the capability upgrades of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the way ahead for the Philippines-US defense relations," the department said.
According to the DND, Lorenzana's talk with Variava is his first official face-to-face meeting since he finished a 14-day mandatory quarantine after a recent official trip to the US.
Lorenzana, in an online event marking the 70th anniversary of the countries' MDT earlier this month, said there was a need for a comprehensive review of the Philippines' alliance with the United States.
He complained Manila got less from its relationship with Washington than non-treaty allies despite growing pressure from China and that there was a need to "upgrade" and "update" the alliance and to make clear the "extent of American commitments."
Lorenzana noted that the US pact with Japan, its World War 2 enemy, was more clear than that with Manila when it came to determining whether it applied in the Pacific maritime area, where the Philippines has been embroiled with disputes with China over territorial claims in the disputed and resource-rich South China Sea.
After his statements, the US last week reaffirmed the applicability of the MDT to the South China Sea.
US deputy assistant secretary of defense for South and Southeast Asia Lindsey Ford said Washington stands by its obligations to come to Manila's aid in case of any armed attack on Philippine armed forces in the Pacific, including the South China Sea.
— With a report from Reuters