Lorenzana, US counterpart pledge to strengthen bilateral alliance

Aileen Cerrudo
United States Secretary of Defense Mark Esper (R) and Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana (L) shake hands during a press conference at a military camp in Quezon City, east of Manila, Philippines, 19 November 2019. Esper is in the Philippines for a series of meetings to discuss terrorism and defense relations between the two countries. EPA-EFE/MARK R. CRISTINO

Department of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and United States counterpart Mark Esper pledged to strengthen the bilateral alliance of the Philippines and the United States during their meeting on Tuesday (November 19).

In a joint statement, the two officials both praised the Philippines-United States alliance and also pledged to improve information sharing to prevent terrorist attacks and the transit of foreign terrorist fighters in and through the Philippines.

“Both sides have committed to focus on developing capabilities and enhancing cooperation in both maritime and aerial domains through the conduct of the Philippines-United States Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board activities,” the statement reads.

Meanwhile, both countries also reiterated their commitment to upholding freedom of navigation, overflight, other lawful uses of the sea in the South China Sea.

Esper said they stand for international rules, pertaining to the maritime dispute between China and other Southeast Asian countries.

“The clear signal that we’re trying to send is not that we oppose China per se, but that we all stand for international rules and international laws and we think China should abide by them as well and that acting collectively is the best way to send that message to get China on the right path,” he said.

Both parties are also open to reviewing the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty of the Philippines and the United States.

“In my opinion, it has been made in 1951 at the height of the Korean War. And the situation then compared to now is different. So, we are now in the low-level discussion first,” Lorenzana said.—AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

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