US, Philippines agree to complete security assistance road map in 5-10 years

By Reuters   April 11, 2023 | 06:30 pm PT
US, Philippines agree to complete security assistance road map in 5-10 years
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken conducts joint media availability at the State Department with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo, and Defense Chief Carlito Galvez Jr., in Washington, U.S., April 11, 2023. Photo by Reuters/Elizabeth Frantz
The top defense and diplomatic officials from the U.S. and Philippines agreed on Tuesday to complete a road map on U.S. security assistance to the Philippines in the next five to 10 years, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Tuesday.

Austin said the long-time allies discussed the delivery of "priority defense platforms" including radars, drones, military transport aircraft and coastal and air defense systems at a so-called 2+2 meeting in Washington, which also involvedU.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and their Philippine counterparts.

Philippines Foreign Minister Enrique Manalo told the same news conference the two sides "redoubled" their commitment to modernizing the Philippines-U.S. alliance in recognition that "our partnership will need to play a stronger role in preserving an international law-based international order."

Austin said that it was "too early" to discuss what assets the United States would like to station at military bases in the Philippines under a recently expanded Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Manalo said the EDCA sites were mainly aimed at improving military interoperability, addressing potential humanitarian disasters "and perhaps respond to other types of security challenges," but did not elaborate.

The Pentagon has not specifically said what the additional sites will be used for, except that work would include airport expansion and training involving naval assets.

Manalo said on Monday Washington and Manila will need to discuss what the U.S. may do with its access to the EDCA sites.

EDCA allows U.S. access to Philippine bases for joint training, pre-positioning of equipment and building of facilities such as runways, fuel storage and military housing, but not a permanent presence.

U.S.-Philippines relations have warmed considerably under Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, and the 2+2 meeting underlined that as the first of its kind in seven years. But Manila treads a delicate path with China, the region's economic powerhouse.

Marcos assured China on Monday that military bases accessible to the U.S. would not be used in offensive action, stressing that the arrangement with Washington was designed to boost his country's defenses.

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