US: Defense treaty with Philippines ‘ironclad’ –

MANILA, Philippines — The Mutual Defense Treaty is an “ironclad” commitment which the United States will keep even with the Philippines’ territorial dispute with China over the South China Sea.
This assurance was given by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III when he spoke with Department of National Defense (DND) officer-in-charge Jose Faustino Jr. over the phone yesterday to discuss opportunities to further modernize and strengthen the US-Philippines alliance.
During the phone call, Austin noted “that the US commitment to Philippine security is ironclad, and that US Mutual Defense Treaty commitments extend to Philippine armed forces, public vessels, and aircraft in the South China Sea.”
The Pentagon, in a statement released through the US embassy in Manila, said both countries reaffirmed the importance of the US-Philippines alliance, especially in light of changing regional dynamics in the Indo-Pacific Region.
It said that Austin and Faustino agreed to continue close operational coordination in the region where the Philippines and China and several other nations have conflicting territorial claims.
Pentagon Press Secretary, Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, said both leaders noted the importance of enhancing the posture of the alliance to address new and emerging challenges, including by deepening cooperation under the Visiting Forces Agreement and the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.
Before ending their phone conversation, the two defense officials underscored the importance of a free, open, and prosperous Indo-Pacific.
Austin also expressed his thanks to the Philippines for its support for the people of Ukraine.
The Philippines, through various agencies led by the Philippine Coast Guard, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the Philippine Navy has stepped up its patrols over the West Philippine Sea (WPS) after Chinese maritime militia vessels were found lingering inside the country’s exclusive economic zone.
China Coast Guard vessels have tried repeatedly to prevent soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Western Command from sending troops and supplies at the grounded BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal.
Faustino, after being named as the DND chief, announced that protecting the country’s territorial rights over the WPS using the 2016 decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration is definitely a priority under the Marcos administration.
Revealing his 10-point agenda, the former AFP chief said protecting the country’s territory ranks first in his priorities and policies which forms part of his “guidance to align the Department’s policies with the Marcos administration’s promise of a stronger and better Philippines through national unity, nation-building, and economic recovery.”?
Yesterday, the PCG started the two-day joint exercises with its US counterpart in the West Philippine Sea near Zambales in a bid to enhance the interoperability of the two civil maritime forces.
About 150 PCG personnel, represented by the BRP Gabriela Silang, BRP Melchora Aquino and Cessna Caravan 208 aircraft, are participating in the drills with 250 personnel from the US Coast Guard, represented by its vessel Cutter Midgett (WMSL-757).
In a statement, the PCG said that their at-sea joint drills with the USCG involved communication exercises, maneuvering drills, photo exercises, decoding messages through flag hoisting, flashing exercises, publication exercises and small boat operations.
The PCG said that boarding operations, search and rescue exercises, and the conduct of medical assistance are also part of the joint exercises with its US counterpart.
PCG spokesman Commodore Armand Balilo said that the joint exercise is part of their “normal job” usually done alongside some counterpart countries including Japan and China.
Balilo added that the joint exercise does not mean intimidating other countries.
“This is the normal work of the PCG and that is what we do with whoever joins us in this exercise. Even with China and Japan, we performed this before – SAREX (search and rescue exercise). This is no cause for issues with among countries,” he said.
Balilo emphasized that the joint exercises are also a means to transfer “best practices” of the USCG to the PCG.
Meanwhile, 13 civil society organizations (CSOs) involved in environmental protection in the country are getting a huge financial boost from the US government worth a total of $5.1 million (about P287.44 million).
The US embassy said the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded grants to the groups for the promotion of biodiversity conservation and natural climate solutions in the Philippines.
USAID Philippines acting Deputy Mission Director Jennifer Crow, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary Marilou Erni, and Gerry Roxas Foundation Executive Director Glen de Castro formally awarded the grants at a ceremony held last Aug. 30.
Each of the CSOs received a grant valued at around P16 million to implement three-year conservation and climate projects that will help communities adopt environmentally friendly practices, engage the public and private sectors, and establish local enterprises that support conservation.
The groups include ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation Inc., Jaime V. Ongpin Foundation Inc., Mount Apo Foundation Inc., NGOs for Fisheries Reform, PATH Foundation Philippines Inc., Philippine Association for the Intellectual Development Inc., Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc., Philippine Eagle Foundation Inc., Sentro Para sa Ikauunlad ng Katutubong Agham at Teknolohiya, Xavier Science Foundation Inc. and the Zoological Society of London-Philippines.
The US embassy said two grantees were each awarded P56 million (about $1 million) to support disability-inclusive climate actions.
Using the funds, the Oscar M. Lopez Center for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management Foundation Inc. will develop a dictionary of climate change-related terms in Filipino sign language.
The group Humanity & Inclusion Philippines will meaningfully engage people with disabilities in climate change governance and improve their resilience to the impacts of climate change. – Robertzon Ramirez is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!


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