U.S. and PH defense leaders meet in Hawaii to improve coordination
WASHINGTON — Pledging to strengthen the partnership between longtime allies, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Jose C. Faustino Jr., officer-in-charge of the Philippine Department of National Defense, met recently at Camp Smith, Hawaii.
Faustino and Austin said the priority areas for the alliance included strengthening mutual defense treaty commitments, enhancing maritime cooperation and building on the mutual defense posture. They also said it was necessary to improve interoperability and information sharing, the U.S. Pacific Command stated on its website.
The talks between the two defense leaders are based on the shared vision “of an open secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific, free from coercion or bullying,” Austin said during remarks after the meeting.
Austin said the two countries participate in more than 300 exercises annually that range in size from the huge Balikatan exercise to port visits to exchanges of experts. “This cooperation goes on every day, and it supports our alliance and our obligations under the mutual defense treaty,” he said.
The cooperation is covered under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement signed in 2014. “Our U.S. and Philippine Visiting Forces Agreement allows us to continue working closely together and it lets us respond quickly to disasters and crises,” the secretary said.