MANILA – Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the United Kingdom's Carrier Strike Group's (CSG) upcoming visit to Manila will demonstrate freedom of navigation in the South China Sea (SCS).
Lorenzana made this comment in an online conference with British Ambassador Daniel Pruce where several issues of mutual concern were discussed on Wednesday, Defense spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement Friday.
"Secretary Lorenzana welcomed the CSG as well as the port visit to Manila of its component vessel, which will demonstrate freedom of navigation in the SCS and promote closer bilateral relations between the Philippines and the UK," he added.
The UK's CSG is composed of the Royal Navy's brand-new aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, two Type 45 destroyers, HMS Diamond and HMS Defender, Type 23 frigates HMS Kent and HMS Richmond, and an Astute-class submarine along with two replenishment ships.
"Also discussed during the call was the UK’s CSG, which has already set sail towards the Indo-Pacific region," Andolong added.
Lorenzana and Pruce also exchanged updates on the vaccine rollout, challenges encountered, as well as other developments regarding the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) situation in the Philippines and the UK.
Lorenzana also recognized London's important role in the delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the Philippines.
Both officials emphasized the importance of cooperation in dealing with common challenges such as the pandemic.
Lorenzana also shared ongoing efforts in the Philippines to raise understanding and build capacity in dealing with the situation in the SCS.
On the other hand, Pruce reiterated the UK’s position on the SCS issue with an emphasis that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea must take precedence, as well as the UK’s readiness to provide support in related capacity-building efforts.
"Secretary Lorenzana and Ambassador Pruce also took up other matters concerning Philippines-UK defense cooperation, such as acquisition projects, counter-terrorism, and the establishment of a resident defense attaché post in the territory of the other," Andolong said.
The Philippines and the UK will be convening the 2nd Joint Defense Committee Meeting this month. (PNA)