From the Manila Standard Today (Dec 13): US to help PH gain credible defense
A defense official on Wednesday said the United States planned to increase the country’s “minimum credible defense posture” amid the continuing territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea and likewise provide assistance to the military in disaster preparedness and maritime security and awareness, among other things. Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo said the US would enhance the country’s security by providing a “combination” of naval troops and defense equipment while engaging the country’s armed forces in military training and exercises. Batino added that the US move was part of the implementation of Manila and Washington’s 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement.
Although there were no specifics on when and where they plan to increase military presence in the country, Batino said the officials who were present during the meeting had agreed to form a technical working group which would go into the details. “Nothing definitive because this is just a policy consultation meeting. All of these specifics will have to be threshed out to the lower consultation,” Batino told reporters at the sidelines of the press briefing on the PH-US bilateral consultation at the Diamond Hotel in Manila. Batino added that the meeting did not discuss the exact number of troops that Washington would send to the country, saying that “it will be primarily an increase on the defense cooperation activities such as training and exercises all geared for maritime security and disaster relief”.
Based on its joint statement, the bilateral meeting also formulated policies in line with Manila and Washington’s constitution, on how to strengthen the country’s maritime security and maritime awareness, specifically on the development of a National Coast Watch Center. US Assistant Secretary of Defense Mark Lippert said the American Department of Defense Cooperative Threat Reduction Program is also planning to strengthen the capability of the Philippines National Coast Watch System on maritime domain awareness and maritime security coordinating role. “We look forward to continuing this dialogue of shared goal to promote peace and stability in the region” Lippert said.
The meeting, according to Batino, was part of what Lippert discussed last September on the “three-part-approach” on what the US Defense Department will do to assist the Philippines on security-related issues. The first approach would be the repositioning of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance; the second approach refers to developing maritime awareness and the third was continuing the engagement of both countries’ military forces.
The United States is the Philippines’ only treaty ally and one of only two strategic allies. Through the Mutual Defense Treaty signed by both countries in 1951, the Philippines were able to acquire two Hamilton-class cutters and several armaments that will boost the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ and the Philippine Coast Guard’s capacity to protect the country’s coastal waters. US assistant secretary of State Kurt Campbell also re-affirmed Washington’s firm support for the Philippines on its defense treaty with it. “The US stands firmly behind the Philippines on defense treaty,” Campbell. The 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty provides that both countries must come to the aid of each other when faced with possible armed conflict. The treaty also says Washington must help Manila boost its military capability.