United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III and Philippine counterpart Jose Faustino Jr. on Thursday discussed strengthening their commitments to the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the two countries.
The discussion took place during a meeting at the US Indo-Pacific Command in Honolulu, Hawaii, highlighting the strong bilateral defense relations between the two nations.
Under the MDT, the two countries agreed that an armed attack in the Pacific Area on either the Philippines or the US would be dangerous and that they would act to meet the common dangers in accordance with its constitutional processes.
The two defense secretaries also deliberated the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) during the meeting.
EDCA allows US forces, contractors, vehicles, vessels, and aircraft to conduct activities on agreed locations inside the Philippine military bases.
The VFA allows US troops to train and advise the Philippine military in disaster response and its fight against terrorists. However, under the VFA, US forces are not allowed to take part in combat operations.
However, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said it is better to clarify the implementing rules of the MDT than to revisit the entire agreement.
Manalo made the statement during a Senate finance committee hearing on the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA) proposed P20.304 billion budget for 2023.
Manalo also disclosed ongoing clarificatory talks with the US to discuss how it will come into the Philippines’ defense in case of attacks.
During President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s meeting with US President Joe Biden last week in New York, Malacanang said the US recognized the Philippines as a “treaty partner” and among those treaties is the MDT.
In a related development, Senator Robin Padilla said the DFA needs to refine its publicity efforts regarding the government’s efforts on the West Philippine Sea, as well as on the MDT.
Padilla, who chairs the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media, said it is important that Filipinos be aware of the steps that are being taken to implement our arbitral victory on the WPS in 2016.
He noted the public needs to be enlightened on the roles of the DFA as well as the details of the issues involving the MDT, VFA, and the arbitral ruling.
Some 3,000 Filipino and American Marines, meanwhile, will take part in this year’s “Kaagapay Ng Mga Mandirigma ng Dagat” (KAMANDAG) exercise from Oct. 3 to 14 in various locations in the Philippines. The activity is the sixth iteration of this exercise.