MANILA, Philippines – Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea was in Hawaii with top Philippine government officials for "high level discussions" with retiring US Pacific Command (PACOM) chief Admiral Harry Harris Jr.
"The Philippines and the United States have reaffirmed their firm resolve to bolster their enduring alliance anchored on common values and interest, historic ties, and the Mutual Defense Treaty, in high-level discussions in Honolulu," said the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in a statement on Sunday, May 20.
Medialdea was accompanied by Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Interior and Local Government OIC-Secretary Eduardo Año, Philippine Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez, and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Teodoro Locsin Jr.
Harris is expected to become US envoy to South Korea.
"The Philippine delegation had a very substantive exchange with Admiral Harris on regional challenges and both sides agreed that the alliance remains consequential to the preservation of regional stability and development," the DFA said.
The South China Sea was among regional issues discussed.
"On the South China Sea, the DFA said the Philippine delegation underscored that the deliberate and nuanced diplomacy by the Duterte administration had lowered tensions in the region and resulted in clear economic gains for the Philippines in terms of access to marine resources, protection of the marine ecology, and the potential to explore oil and gas resources," the DFA said.
In its statement, the DFA said Harris meanwhile congratulated the Philippines for its "decisive victory in Marawi."
"Both sides agreed on the need to work more closely together, including in the exchange of information, in the fight against terrorism and in countering violent extremism," the DFA statement said.
Harris has led PACOM since 2015, has worked closely with the Philippine military, and has met with President Rodrigo Duterte himself. He is retiring in June.
Harris was recently conferred the Philippine Legion of Honor, the order of defense merit of the Philippines. – Rappler.com