ALLIES. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (left) and his US counterpart, Lloyd Austin III, meet in Washington DC on Friday (Sept. 10, 2021). The two defense officials renewed their commitment to further enhance defense relations between Manila and Washington DC. (Photo courtesy of DND)

MANILA – The Philippines and the United States have reaffirmed their commitment to further enhance their defense relations.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III made this commitment during a meeting in Washington DC on Friday (US time) in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).

"Following their bilateral meeting in Manila last 30 July 2021, Secretary Lorenzana met with his counterpart, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, on 10 September in Washington DC where both sides reaffirmed their commitment to further enhance the defense relations between the two countries," Department of National Defense (DND) spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement Saturday.

Signed on Aug. 30, 1951, the MDT is an accord that stipulates that the Philippines and the US would support each other if either of them were to be attacked by an external party.

Lorenzana said both sides now have a better appreciation of each country’s defense and security priorities and have come to an understanding of shared goals for the alliance and the region.

The two defense secretaries also exchanged views on regional issues and concerns and agreed on common positions and approaches. Austin expressed his appreciation for the Philippine decision to restore the Agreement Regarding the Treatment of US Armed Forces

Visiting the Philippines (VFA), which signals a commitment by both sides to strengthen the long-standing alliance.

Aside from boosting security ties and defense cooperation between the two countries, the defense secretaries discussed developments in the South China Sea, with Austin reaffirming the US’ commitments to the Philippines under the MDT.

Both Lorenzana and Austin also agreed to convene the Bilateral Strategic Dialogue to further discuss shared priorities for the alliance and encouraged their respective armed forces to sustain cooperation under the Mutual Defense Board - Security Engagement Board.

"Relatedly, both sides agreed to work on a bilateral maritime framework that advances cooperation in the maritime domain, and to resume projects in approved Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) locations in the Philippines," Andolong said.

The meeting ended with the two defense officials reaffirming the friendship, partnership, and alliance between the Philippines and the US.

Both sides reaffirmed that the engagement is not just a fulfillment of obligations under the MDT but a willing commitment to keep the alliance ironclad. (PNA)