DND chief Carlito Galvez Jr. (Photo courtesy of DND)

MANILA – To maintain peace in the Asia Pacific region, Department of National Defense (DND) chief Carlito Galvez Jr. said the rule of law must be upheld along with the continued pursuit of dialogue and multilateralism.

He made this comment during the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue (SLD) held in Singapore from June 2 to 4.

"In his statement, Senior Undersecretary Galvez underscored two significant points to uphold the long peace and stability in the region amid increasing strains on the security environment: first is upholding the primacy of the rule-of-law; and second, the continued pursuit of dialogue and multilateralism," DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement late Sunday.

In this year's SLD, Galvez joined United Kingdom Secretary of State for Defense Ben Wallace and Canada Minister of National Defense Anita Anand in leading the discussions on the topic “Building a Stable and Balanced Asia-Pacific”.

"Senior Undersecretary Galvez emphasized the role of international law as the greatest equalizer among states, recalling that it is exactly this belief that made the Philippines confidently resort to the compulsory dispute settlement mechanism of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and The Hague Tribunal," Andolong said.

The SLD is dubbed as “Asia’s premier defense summit” and is an annual gathering of defense ministers, senior military officials, diplomats and security experts and practitioners, which ushers significant debates on the region’s most pressing security issues and important talks to generate fresh approaches together.

"Relatedly, he (Galvez) encouraged all parties who subscribe to the rule-of-law to express support for the 2016 South China Sea Arbitration Award and what it stands for as it is ultimately this support that will preserve the global order at sea and uphold the universally recognized principles of international law," Andolong stressed.

He also said the DND chief emphasized the importance of multilateralism in fostering the political will and mutual trust needed for constructive dialogue and reaching an agreement to abide by a shared system of norms and values.

Andolong said Galvez's statement reaffirms that multilateralism remains as an effective strategy for modernizing collective defense, deterring aggression, and maintaining peace and prosperity -- a strategy that can create a strong message that the Philippines is not alone in shedding light on the situation in the South China Sea.

"Senior Undersecretary Galvez likewise accentuated ASEAN as a remarkable example that multilateralism works even in a region as diverse as the Asia-Pacific, highlighting its ability to offer a neutral ground for tabling various interests based on an equitable treatment of norms and principles. It is in this context that he also called for a substantive ASEAN-China Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) that is negotiated through a process that perseveres despite the pressures of destabilizing actions," Andolong pointed out.

Galvez also reiterated the Philippines’ commitment to diplomacy and dialogue to build the aggregated resilience of the region as a whole.

The DND chief also met with his counterparts from Singapore, Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Sweden and the US on the sidelines of the SLD.

PH, Sweden sign MOU on defense materiel cooperation

As this developed, Galvez and Swedish Defense Minister Pål Jonson signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Concerning Cooperation in the Acquisition of Defense Materiel last June 3.

Andolong said the MOU signing is a highlight of Galvez and Jonson's first meeting at the SLD.

"The signed agreement paves the way for advancing cooperation in the areas of logistics, defense industry development, and exchange of related information between the two countries. The agreement opens up opportunities for Swedish defense industries to participate in the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program (AFPMP) as well as for possible joint initiatives in support of the Philippines’ thrust to achieve a Self-Reliant Defense Posture," he added.

The two officials also welcomed progress of Philippines - Sweden bilateral defense relations which was demonstrated by the exchange of visits to Manila and Stockholm by defense, military and foreign affairs delegations in recent months.

"They also exchanged views on current security issues in the Indo-Pacific region and in Europe, as well as ways ahead for cooperation towards a more secure security environment," Andolong noted.

PH, Singapore sign HADR agreement

On June 2, the defense establishment of the Philippines and Singapore signed the Arrangement concerning Education, Training Assistance and Support Activities on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) at the sidelines of the 20th SLD.

The arrangement enables both the AFP and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to enhance capacities on HADR in efficiently addressing impacts of natural and manmade disasters in its aftermath.

Andolong said this is also among the priority agreements of the Philippines with Singapore following the state visit to Singapore of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. last September 2022.

The Arrangement was signed by Assistant Secretary for Strategic Assessments and International Affairs Pablo M. Lorenzo from the DND and Brig. Gen. Kelvin Fan, Deputy Secretary (Policy) from the Ministry of Defence of Singapore. The signing ceremony was also witnessed by Galvez and Minister of Defense Singapore, Dr. Ng Eng Hen.

"Before the signing of the Arrangement, Senior Undersecretary Galvez met Minister Ng for a courtesy call wherein the two top officials underscored the positive momentum of bilateral defense cooperation, and exchanged views on recent security developments in the region," Andolong pointed out. (PNA)