WASHINGTON—Defense Department officer in charge Carlito Galvez and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday established the bilateral defense guidelines between the two countries to modernize the alliance cooperation "for a free and open Indo-Pacific region."
According to a fact sheet from the US Department of Defense, the guidelines "reaffirmed that an armed attack in the Pacific, including anywhere in the South China Sea, on either of their aircraft or armed forces – which includes their Coast Guards – would invoke mutual defense commitments under the 1951 PH-US Mutual Defense Treaty."
"Recognizing that threats may arise in several domains—including land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace—and take the form of asymmetric, hybrid, and irregular warfare and gray-zone tactics, the guidelines chart a way forward to build interoperability in both conventional and non-conventional domains," the DOD fact sheet read.
The guidelines aim to strengthen Manila and Washington's combined deterrence in an evolving security environment, including to:
- Reaffirm the US - Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty’s enduring relevance in addressing both current and emerging threats;
- Foster a common understanding of roles, missions, and capabilities within the framework of the alliance to face regional and global security challenges;
- Drive unity of effort across all areas of bilateral security and defense cooperation to sustain focus on principal regional security concerns; and
- Guide priority areas of defense cooperation to address both conventional and non-conventional security challenges of shared concern.
In modernizing defense capabilities, the defense departments of the two countries should coordinate closely on the Philippines’ defense modernization, including through the completion of a Security Sector Assistance Roadmap.
It is also a must to prioritize the procurement of interoperable defense platforms sourced from US programs and Philippine national defense procurement and funding initiatives.
They should also expand investments in non-materiel defense capacity building including through education and training exchanges, exercises, and other operational activities.
When it comes to deepening interoperability, there is a need to orient bilateral exercises and activities around improving the combined ability to counter armed attacks on either country as well as threats in space and cyberspace, while expanding the scope, scale, and complexity of exercises.
Further, the two countries should expand cooperation on maritime security and maritime domain awareness, including through the continued conduct of combined maritime activities, including but not limited to joint patrols.
Cooperation under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) must also be deepened to strengthen interoperability, including through infrastructure improvements; enhanced joint use of facilities; advancement of additional maritime security, maritime domain awareness, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities; and rotational US access to Agreed Locations.
The two countries should also sustain participation in multilateral fora, anchored in shared support for ASEAN centrality.
Moreover, there is a need to prioritize trilateral and other forms of multilateral cooperation based on common issues of shared concern, including pursuing opportunities for third-party participation and observation in bilateral US - Philippine defense activities.
The Philippines and the US also vowed to enhance bilateral planning and information sharing on "early indicators of threats" to peace and security.
Both stressed the need for "real time information sharing" and for enhancing information security through consultations on policies, practices and procedures "for the protection of classified defense and military information."
According to a readout of Austin's meeting with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at the Pentagon on Wednesday, they "lauded the conclusion of new US-Philippines Bilateral Defense Guidelines, which chart their vision for alliance cooperation across all operational domains."
"The two leaders underscored their shared desire to deepen bilateral planning and operational cooperation including an increased tempo of combined maritime activities, such as joint patrols, to support the Philippines’ lawful exercise of its rights in the South China Sea," the Pentagon readout said.
Marcos, who's on an official visit, attended a full honors ceremony at the US Department of Defense grounds, and trooped the line. —NB, GMA Integrated News