MANILA — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the US Indo-Pacific Command on Wednesday committed to strengthen the mutual defense alliance between the Philippines and the United States in a bid to adapt to a “changing security environment,” the military said.
AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gilbert Gapay and US Indo-Pacific Command chief Admiral Philip Davidson said both country’s military forces aim to ensure security in the region.
"We view the alliance as a strong and resilient partnership that needs to be responsive to the ever changing security environment," Gapay said in a statement.
The two military leaders led the Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement board meeting that was held virtually for the first time.
The US and the Philippines also committed to strengthen communications and technology transfer.
“The United States and the Philippines remain steadfast allies in our pursuit of regional peace and stability. Our close cooperation ensures our forces are interoperable and a formidable force for stability throughout the region while further strengthening the ties that make us such close friends, allies, and partners," said Davidson.
Gapay echoed Davidson, saying the AFP envisions an alliance that will lead in “great interoperability” between both armed forces.
"The AFP envisions our alliance to continue with mutually beneficial activities,” he said.
The meeting is held annually between AFP and the US Indo-Pacific Command to discuss security issues, mutual cooperation and strategic vision, which was anchored on the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, the statement said.
The military leaders also discussed the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the activities and other international engagements between the alliance, which includes the Balikatan exercises.
They also suggested the use of training bubbles and the scaling down of military exercises to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.
“Our alliance should continue to provide the mechanism to further enhance our already robust defense cooperation by pursuing capability building initiatives,” the AFP chief said.
In February, the Department of Foreign Affairs sent a notice to US to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement, which provides legal cover to the military exercises between American and Filipino troops.
The notice was sent after US cancelled the visa of Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, a former PNP chief who led the government's war on drugs.
The termination of the VFA was supposed to take effect 180 days after the notice was served, or in August. In June, the Philippine government informed US that it was suspending for 6 months the termination of the agreement due to the pandemic.