ALLIES. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin, Jr. during a meeting in the US on Friday (Sept. 10, 2021). The two top diplomats reaffirmed the importance of the US-Philippines bilateral relationship, and highlighted the 70th anniversary of its alliance and the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations. (Photo courtesy of US Embassy in Manila)

MANILA – State Secretary Antony Blinken on Friday said the United States is "very gratified" by the recent restoration of the Visiting Forces Agreement between the US and the Philippines.

"We are very gratified to have the recent renewal of the Visiting Forces Agreement," Blinken said during a meeting with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. in the US.

President Rodrigo Duterte decided to reinstate the security pact last July after a "thorough assessment (of the agreement) based on national interest".

For Locsin, the move puts the relationship between the US and the Philippines back on track and restores the security balance in the Asia Pacific region.

Blinken also underscored the importance of freedom of navigation and respect for international law in the South China Sea, and reiterated calls on China "to abide" by the 2016 arbitration ruling issued pursuant to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

He added that Washington DC also stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Manila in combating the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) and looking at "ways to build back better" from the pandemic.

Locsin, for his part, said the US "has been one that galvanized the effort to fight the pandemic in the Philippines".

"People were a bit wary about other alternatives but when Biden came across, President Biden, and gave a huge shipment of vaccines, it really worked well," he said.

This was the first time Locsin and Blinken met face-to-face in time for the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Mutual Defense Treaty and 75 years of diplomatic relations between the two nations.

Aside from Covid-19 response and security alliance, the two top diplomats also discussed economic engagement and human rights while reaffirming the importance of the two nations' bilateral relationship. (PNA)