MANILA — The Philippines’ defense and security cooperation with the United States remains the key pillar of the two nations’ bilateral relations, according to Department of National Defense officer-in-charge Jose Faustino Jr.
Faustino and US Department of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III met at the US Indo-Pacific Command in Honolulu, Hawaii on Thursday to discuss the increasing interoperability between the two armed forces.
“We continue to stand by the PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty and it has been the basis of the national defense policy of our country and we look forward after this bilateral meeting that we have a more robust cooperation, particularly in issues pertaining [to] external threats to our country, and coming up with other avenues of cooperation where we could discuss things with mutual interest to the US and PH,” Faustino said.
Austin, for his part, emphasized that the two nations consider each other more as family, not just allies.
“We fought together, we trained together, and so we consider ourselves—we’re allies, but we consider ourselves to be more family than anything else and I’m proud to say that,” Austin said.
He then continued, “I cannot imagine a day when the US and the PH aren’t allies. It’s who we are… Today, we agree on a number of ways to continue to grow that cooperation. As you know, we’ve been able to move forward our VFA [Visiting Forces Agreement] and we discussed EDCA [Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement], which is critical to our alliance cooperation, and strengthening our combined capabilities.”
The Philippines is the US’ oldest security ally in Southeast Asia.
Faustino and Austin’s meeting came at the culmination of the planning cycle of the PH-US bilateral defense activities for next year.