Philippines, US push for stronger maritime cooperation

The Philippines and the United States have agreed to work on stronger maritime cooperation amid the shadow of China's more aggressive operations in the West Philippine Sea.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin discussed this during a bilateral meeting in Washington D.C. on Friday, September 10.

"Both sides agreed to work on a bilateral maritime framework that advances cooperation in the maritime domain, and to resume projects in approved Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) locations in the Philippines," the Philippines' Department of National Defense (DND) said in a statement on Saturday.

Both defense chiefs discussed "developments in the South China sea," said the statement.

"Secretary Austin reaffirmed the US’ commitments to the Philippines under the Mutual Defense Treaty," said the statement.

Lorenzana said in a statement on Saturday, September 11, that they dicussed their "commitment to further enhance our nations’ alliance."

"We both agreed on a strengthened defense relations and bilateral ties," he added.

Austin also tweeted about his meeting with his Philippine counterpart.

While in Washington, Lorenzana said the Philippines will ignore a newly-passed Chinese maritime law which mandates foreign vessels in the South China Sea to "report their detailed information."

“Our stand on that is we do not honor those laws by the Chinese within the West Philippine Sea because we consider that we have the sovereign right within this waters,” Lorenzana said on September 8.

Chinese ships continue to be spotted in Philippine waters, as the Duterte government fumbles on a strategy to enforce a historic international tribunal ruling that invalidated China's nine-dash line claim.

President Rodrigo Duterte has also decided to keep the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US over a year since he ordered its termination after the US canceled the visa of his drug war architect, Senator Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa.

The VFA was an affirmation of the two countries' obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) signed in 1951. 

"The two Secretaries also agreed to convene the Bilateral Strategic Dialogue (BSD) to further discuss shared priorities for the alliance, and encouraged their respective armed forces to sustain cooperation under the Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB)," said the DND statement. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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