Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Philippine Secretary of National Defense Delfin N. Lorenzana Opening Remarks at Bilateral Meeting

Sept. 10, 2021

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Well, Secretary Lorenzana, thanks for making the trip, and welcome to the -- welcome back to the Pentagon. I know you've been here many times before, but we're especially glad to have you back now, so thanks for making the trip.

We've had a terrific meeting on my recent visit to Manila, and I really want to thank you for your tremendous hospitality. And it's really great to be able to reciprocate your warm welcome and your hospitality by hosting you here today.  
Your visit is especially significant, since we've just celebrated the 70th anniversary of our Mutual Defense Treaty, which remains the bedrock of our alliance. We built on those decades of partnership during my visit to Manila, and President Duterte's decision to restore the U.S.-Philippines Visiting Force Agreement puts our alliance on an especially strong footing. That's the way it should be. The Philippines is a vital treaty ally. Our countries face a range of 21st century challenges, and our cooperation is key to the security, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific.

So I'm looking forward to continuing our discussions on several priority areas for the alliance going forward, including maritime cooperation, modernizing the armed forces of the Philippines and interoperability, information sharing and investments. All these efforts underscore our promise to modernize our historic alliance to address future challenges.

Mr. Secretary, America is committed to a sovereign and secure Philippines, and to building an even stronger alliance based upon our foundation of common interest and common values, and I look forward to discussing ways that we can deepen our partnership.  
So again, we're awfully glad to have you here, sir, and thanks for coming.

PHILIPPINES DEFENSE SECRETARY DELFIN N. LORENZANA: Thank you very much, Secretary Austin, and thank you very much for (inaudible) with me here in Washington, D.C. And this gentlemen, good afternoon.

As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the alliance here, the Department of National Defense recognizes that this significant milestone amidst current regional development offers a unique opportunity to reaffirm enduring ties that bind our countries. 

Following our meeting last 30 July, we now have a better appreciation of each other's defense and security concerns and priorities, and we have come to an understanding of our shared goals for our countries and the region.

During your visit, Mr. Secretary, in Manila, we conveyed the president's decision to recall the letter of termination of the VFA, and we also reaffirmed the continuing importance of the Mutual Defense Treaty, MDT, and we agreed to continue to discuss -- to continue our discussions on the MDT today, because the situation has already changed since it was signed. 

Today, we would like to begin our discussions by sharing three points of why the MDT continues to be important to our country. First, the MDT continues to give promotion of a stable international order in the Indo-Pacific region. Our national security strategy underscores the need for a stable and secure external environment for the Philippines. We believe that regional stability necessitates a network of effective alliances and defense partnerships.

Second, our (inaudible) defense establishment before (inaudible) our primary mandate to protect the Philippine sovereignty and territorial -- territorial integrity, we welcome the U.S. affirmation of its commitments with upholding the rules of law -- rules-based order and compliance with international law, as well as to its obligations specified under the MDT.

Third, the current modernization of the armed forces of the Philippines has been one of the main areas of cooperation of the alliance. The MDT and the various Philippines-U.S. agreements (inaudible) have contributed in the modest development of the Philippines defense posture over the years. We continue to welcome assistance from the U.S. and our other partners to realize these goals. (inaudible) our respective armed forces to sustain operations and that the mutual defense, more security engagement and other regional mechanisms where the Department of National Defense will continue to work together with the Department of Foreign Affairs, the other pertinent Philippine agencies in engaging our counterparts through the bilateral and strategic dialogs.

I'm optimistic Mr. Secretary, that today's discussions will continue to build on the friendship, partnership and alliance between our two countries, which is founded on our shared history of espousing peace and security and cooperation. This engagement is not just a fulfillment of our obligation under the MDT, but a conscious commitment to keep our relationship closer. Thank you.