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US, PH agree to develop maritime law enforcement protocols, security initiatives

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States and the Philippines have agreed to collaborate on several initiatives such as those concerning maritime security and the cyber-digital space following a two-day bilateral meeting in the US capital in the midst of Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.

In a joint statement on Thursday, released by the Philippine Embassy in the US, both Manila and Washington, D.C. announced renewed commitments to work on addressing pressing global and regional challenges.

The announcement came after the conclusion of the 11th Philippines-US Bilateral Strategic Dialogue held on April 22 and 23 here.

Among the salient points of the Philippines-US BSD include both nation’s agreement to “consider and develop, as appropriate, procedures and protocols on cooperative maritime law enforcement operations, in accordance with international law and our respective national laws.”

Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez explained that developing maritime law enforcement operations protocols would mean “we are going to stop aggressive moves coming from China, something like that.”

Romualdez said the Philippine Department of National Defense together with its American counterpart are still “putting together” the protocols on cooperative maritime law enforcement operations.

“They’re putting some flesh into it already now… we want to try to do it as soon as possible,” the envoy said.

Apart from developing joint maritime law enforcement operations procedures, the US and the Philippines also agreed to “deepen collaboration on countering foreign information manipulation.”

Romualdez cited the “false narratives” that Beijing is propagating against Manila.

“The false narratives… every time something happens in the West Philippine Sea, China says we are putting up with aggressive behavior,” he said.

“Now there’s this coalition, which we think is being funded by China, [saying] there’s going to be a proxy war… that’s fear mongering, that’s a Chinese narrative,” he said.

The US and the Philippines, likewise, agreed to continue discussions on the following:

  • Concluding the bilateral Philippines - Security Sector Assistance Roadmap
  • Fully finalizing the addition of sites and implementing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation
  • Agreement (EDCA), to include DoD investing $128 million for infrastructure as part of the President's Fiscal Year 2025 budget
  • Prepositioning USAID disaster relief commodities for Philippine civilian disaster response authorities at key EDCA sites
  • Concluding a General Security of Military Information Agreement by the end of 2024
  • Expanding multilateral cooperation with like minded countries, including through maritime cooperative activities, bilateral and multilateral exercises, and security cooperation coordination
  • Explore additional opportunities to strengthen global support for upholding the international law of the sea
  • Deepen cooperation to strengthen efforts in addressing Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing, in line with relevant international law and voluntary guidelines

The two sides also committed to advancing the Luzon Economic Corridor under the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGI)- IPEF Investment Accelerator, to support connectivity between Subic Bay, Clark, Manila, and Batangas and investments in rail, port modernization, clean energy and semiconductor supply chains, and agribusiness.

The two nations, likewise, discussed opportunities for further cooperation on critical minerals processing, digital upskilling, and semiconductor supply chains under the CHIPS Act and in cooperation with USAID.—RF, GMA Integrated News