ALLIES. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (right) shakes the hands of his counterpart, US Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III during their meeting at the Pentagon in Washington DC on Tuesday (April 19, 2022). The two secretaries discussed ways to further improve the alliance between the United States and the Philippines. (Photo from the Facebook page of Secretary Lorenzana)

MANILA – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and his US counterpart, Lloyd J. Austin III, met at the Pentagon in Washington DC on Tuesday (Philippine time) for another bilateral meeting to enhance the two nations' alliance.

Lorenzana said his latest meeting with Austin would also be his farewell call as he ends his term as defense chief in 72 days.

"At the Pentagon with US Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III for another bilateral meeting to discuss ways to continue to deepen cooperation under the US-Philippines alliance," he said on his Facebook page Tuesday night.

It was the third time Lorenzana personally met with Austin – once in Manila and twice in Washington DC.

The two discussed strengthening mutual defense treaty commitments, enhancing maritime cooperation, and improving interoperability in information sharing.

A statement released by the US defense department said Austin lauded Lorenzana for advancing some of the alliance's initiatives.

"I know that our teams have been meeting frequently… over the past year, and they've done a great deal to advance some of the forward-looking alliance initiatives that you and I have discussed," he said.

He added that this is a testament to the strength of the US-Philippines alliance and friendship and Lorenzana's leadership.

Austin pointed to the size of the joint US-Philippine Exercise Balikatan – the first since the beginning of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic – as an example of the vitality of the alliance between the nations.

"Despite the pandemic, this was one of the largest of these exercises ever, including exercising a new range of capabilities," he said. "And that just underscores our shared commitment to this alliance, and that commitment is ironclad."

Austin said Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine points to the need for countries to stand together to defend the international, rules-based architecture that has served the world well since the end of World War II. (PNA)