Visiting Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III will meet with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. today.
On Twitter, Austin said his meetings aim “to build on our strong bilateral relationship, discuss a range of security initiatives, and advance our shared vision of a free and open Pacific.”
The US official, who arrived in Manila Tuesday evening, visited US troops stationed at a Philippine military camp in Zamboanga City.
“Our working relationship with them is very strong,” said Lt. Gen. Roy Galido, head of the Western Mindanao Command.
“They [US troops] are here to help us in our mission, especially in counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance, and disaster response,” Galido added.
Austin also met with AFP chief General Andres Centino during his visit in Zamboanga City.
“It’s an ongoing relationship that we’ve had with the United States. As President Marcos has pointed out, it’s evolving. So our military alliance, our Mutual Defense Treaty, our Visiting Forces Agreement are obviously part and parcel of that entire relationship that we have with the United States so obviously that visit will reinforce all of these agreements that we have,” Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez said Tuesday
He, however, deferred to the DND when asked if an agreement on the five additional facilities under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) would be firmed up during Austin’s visit.
Manila and Washington DC are expected to discuss “speeding up the implementation” of the EDCA during Austin’s trip, the US Department of Defense said in an article dated Jan. 29.
The US Defense chief, it added, would focus on capabilities and interoperability as “key to deterring any challenge in the region” amid the complex security environment in the Indo-Pacific region.