Washington DC, 21 March 2023 (TDI): The Officer in Charge of the Department of National Defense in the Philippines, Carlito Galvez, and the United States (US) Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J. Austin III, engaged in a conversation to discuss the ongoing efforts towards strengthening the US-Philippines alliance.

In their dialogue, the two sides engaged in a discussion on the recent groundbreaking ceremony held for the rehabilitation of a $24 million runway project at Basa Air Base. This project is one of the several approved undertakings under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. The conversation allowed both parties to share their perspectives on the significance of this project and how it will contribute to the long-term stability and security of the region.

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During the conversation, Secretary Austin underscored the United States steadfast commitment to its alliance with the Philippines. He reiterated that the provisions of the Mutual Defense Treaty extend to the Philippine armed forces, aircraft, and public vessels, including those of its Coast Guard, in the South China Sea, wherever they may be.

The two leaders expressed their concerns about China and its activities in the gray-zone area.  Furthermore, both leaders expressed particular concern about growing military activity in the region.

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Besides, Secretary Austin and Secretary Galvez welcomed upcoming operational engagements between the US and Philippines Armed Forces, including during Exercise Balikatan next month. To mention, this will be the largest iteration of the exercise to date with more than 17,000 participating troops.

In the same vein, they also discussed plans to conduct combined maritime activities in the South China Sea and agreed to review the full range of US-Philippines maritime cooperation during the upcoming Ministerial Dialogue.

Likewise, the two secretaries discussed US support to contain and mitigate the ecological damage resulting from an oil spill off the coast of Mindoro Oriental, south of Manila.

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Also Read: US, Philippines accelerate the implementation of Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement

The US Secretary of Defense and the Officer in Charge of the Department of National Defense of the Philippines pledged to continue working together to strengthen their countries’ alliances and to promote peace and stability in the region.