Philippines-US relations

US defense secretary arrives in PH, seeks to speed up EDCA implementation

Sofia Tomacruz

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US defense secretary arrives in PH, seeks to speed up EDCA implementation

IN PHILIPPLINES. US Defense Secretary Lloysd Austin (left) arrives in the Philippines on January 31, 2023.

US embassy in Manila

While in town, the senior US official will meet with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo, and AFP chief General Andres Centino

MANILA, Philippines – United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Manila on Tuesday night, January 31, with Washington set on further bolstering its defense partnership with its treaty ally, the Philippines.

Austin, who flew in from the Republic of Korea, marking his second visit to the Philippines since 2021, and his first under the new Marcos administration.

Upon welcoming Austin to the Southeast Asian country on Tuesday night, US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson said the senior official’s visit demonstrated Washington’s “ironclad commitment” to its longtime ally.

Austin’s visit comes just nearly two months after US Vice President Kamala Harris completed an official trip to the Philippines last November 2022, and is also the latest in “unprecedented” series of high-level visits by US officials to the country since President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. took office in end-June last year.

While in town, Austin is expected to hold a meeting with Marcos, as well as his counterpart Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. The US defense chief will also meet with Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo and Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Andres Centino.

A readout from the US Department of Defense (DOD) indicated Austin would tackle “speeding up” the implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), a military deal that allows the US military to preposition defense assets and construct facilities in select Philippine bases.

High on the agenda were expectations that the treaty partners would announce five new locations to be included under the deal.

“We anticipate that 2023 is going to be a very exciting year for the alliance…. Right now, I think we’re seeing a very positive upswing in the trajectory of the relationship,” a senior defense official traveling with Austin told the US DOD.

Austin’s visit also seeks to tackle ways to “modernize” the two countries’ 76-year-old alliance to address new and emerging threats, including China’s continued assertion of its expansive claims in the South China Sea.

The Philippines and the US share a Mutual Defense Treaty, which sees both sides commit to defend one another in case of an attack, including in the West Philippine Sea.

“We’ll be actively talking about what we can do together to address what has been a pretty notable period of harassment and coercion recently in the South China Sea,” the senior official said.

Austin’s visit is scheduled to run until Thursday, February 2. –

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers defense and foreign affairs. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz.