PH, US Defense Secretaries discuss issues of mutual concern

December 14, 2023

A phone call was held on December 13, 2023 between Secretary of National Defense, Gilberto C. Teodoro Jr., and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, solidifying the enduring defense alliance between the Philippines and the US.

Expressing condolences for recent tragic events, Secretary Austin conveyed sympathy for the victims of the December 3 bombing at the Mindanao State University (MSU) and the casualties resulting from earthquakes in Mindanao.

In response to the US’ firm support regarding incidents of harassment against Philippine vessels, Secretary Teodoro emphasized the Philippines’ sovereign right to address evolving security concerns through capability build-up and continued conduct of rotation and reprovisioning (RORE) missions. The two Secretaries condemned coercive and unprovoked actions, and dangerous maneuvers in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea.

Commending the professionalism of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Secretary Austin reiterated the ironclad commitment of the US to the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the treaty’s applicability to armed forces, public vessels, and aircraft – including Coast
Guards – anywhere in the Pacific, including the SCS.

The Secretaries recalled the productive discussions during the President’s visit to the US Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) in November, and welcomed increased cooperation with likeminded partners to include the conduct of bilateral and multilateral maritime activities, among others.

The meeting concluded with the two defense officials committing to uphold the maintenance of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region.

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