Senior Filipino and U.S. military officials agreed at an annual meeting Thursday to strengthen a long-standing mutual defense alliance, officials said, months after President Rodrigo Duterte put on hold his threat to end a key bilateral pact amid Chinese militarism in the South China Sea.
Both countries sought a “stronger mutual defense alliance,” the Philippine side said at the end of the one-day meeting between high-level military officials from both countries that was held virtually for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We view the alliance as a strong and resilient partnership that needs to be responsive to the ever-changing security environment,” Philippine armed forces chief Gen. Gilbert Gapay said after the annual Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board meeting. “The United States and the Philippines remain steadfast allies in our pursuit of regional peace and stability.”
The Philippine military leader said he discussed a range of issues with Adm. Philip Davidson, commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, particularly plans for bilateral exercises next year and measures to deal with COVID-19.
Cooperation ensures that “forces are interoperable and [become] a formidable force for stability throughout the region,” Gapay said.