US Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday (left) and AFP chief of staff Gen. Andres Centino (right) (Photo courtesy of AFP)

MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the US Navy both expressed commitment to strengthening their defense partnership.

This came after US Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday met with AFP chief of staff Gen. Andres Centino at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City Wednesday.

"Aside from their discussion on the upcoming 'Balikatan Exercises', wherein more Filipino and US personnel are expected to participate, the two top military officials also assured the continuation of a strong defense partnership, primarily through joint training and exercise, HADR (humanitarian assistance and disaster relief), and counter-terrorism," AFP public affairs office chief Col. Jorry Baclor said in a statement Wednesday night.

Both officials also affirmed a robust military partnership between the US and the Philippines based on the Mutual Defense Treaty, including pursuing a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

Centino and Gilday also echoed the pronouncements of Department of National Defense (DND) officer-in-charge Undersecretary Carlito Galvez Jr. and US Defense Secretary Lloyd James Austin III regarding the agreement to designate four additional Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites during the visit of the American official last Feb. 2.

After the arrival honors rendered by the AFP, the two officials proceeded to the meeting that affirmed a robust military partnership between the US and the Philippines based on the Mutual Defense Treaty, including pursuing a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

Earlier, the DND said that the locations of the four additional facilities under the EDCA between the Philippines and the United States would be made public once necessary works and preparations are completed.

DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said a consensus has already been reached on the four new "Agreed Locations" by the two nations and that these would be finalized and announced once appropriate requirements are fulfilled.

Finalized after eight rounds of talks in August 2013, the EDCA which was signed in 2014 allows US troops access to designated Philippine military facilities, the right to build facilities, and preposition equipment, aircraft, and vessels, but rules out permanent basing.

The Philippine government is working with the US to build the future facilities at the Cesar Basa Air Base in Floridablanca town, Pampanga province; Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Nueva Ecija province; Lumbia Airfield in Cagayan de Oro City; Antonio Bautista Air Base in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan; and Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu province.

More collaboration between PH, US navies

Meanwhile, Philippine Navy (PN) flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Toribio Adaci Jr. vowed more collaboration with the US Navy following Gilday's visit to Navy headquarters in Naval Station Jose Andrara, Roxas Boulevard, Manila on Wednesday.

"During exchanges, the visiting Admiral emphasized the need of collaboration among allies, which is strengthened through joint and combined exercises. He further underscored the importance of providing forces in creating great opportunities to implement joint operations and maritime exercises," PN spokesperson Captain Benjo Negranza said Thursday.

Adaci also echoed Gilday's perspective and reassured the PN’s sustained collaboration with US counterparts for the betterment of both navies.

He also expressed gratitude for accommodating PN students at various naval schools in the United States.

Gilday's visit came shortly after the bilateral dialogues of the Philippine Fleet with the US 7th Fleet, and the Philippine Marine Corps with the US Marine Corps Forces Pacific.

"These interactions have helped reinforce the confidence between the two countries as both navies explore more ways of working together toward regional peace and stability," Negranza said.

A2A talks

Meanwhile, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) and the Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) concluded the 11th PAF-PACAF Airman-to-Airman (A2A) Talks at Villamor Air Base, Pasay City on Wednesday.

The 11th iteration of A2A Talks, which started Tuesday, was co-chaired by PAF acting vice commander and Air Defense Command chief Maj. Gen. Augustine Malinit and Maj. Gen. Mark A. Weber, Air National Guard Assistant to Commander, Pacific Air Force (PACAF).

During the two-day A2A Talks, working group (WG) sessions were held wherein PAF-PACAF WGs on Plans and Policy; Cybersecurity; Integrated Air and Missile Defense; Intelligence; Training and Operations; as well as Civil-Military Operations, discussed the Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB) proposed activities for the year 2024.

The PAF and PACAF regularly hold Airman-to-Airman Talks to continue strengthening the alliance among the two nations as well as to develop their Air Forces' capabilities in deterring aggression, maintaining peace and stability, and ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific. (PNA)