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Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III Welcomes Carlito Galvez Jr., Senior Undersecretary and Officer in Charge of the Department of National Defense of the Republic of the Philippines, to the Pentagon

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE LLOYD J. AUSTIN III: Well, Secretary Galvez, it's great to see you again so soon after my trip to Manila in February and it is a pleasure to host you at the Pentagon. So thanks for taking the time to meet again after a very productive Two Plus Two ministerial dialogue yesterday.

And as I've said yesterday, this is an historic moment for our lives. As we take critical steps together to deepen our ties and strengthen peace and stability in the region. We share a vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific. One grounded in transparency, freedom of navigation, the rule of law, respect for sovereignty and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

Now those principles have faced growing challenges lately. We've seen a troubling increase in coercion and dangerous operational behavior, including in the South China Sea. And we remain deeply committed to our alliance obligations. 

And as we've made abundantly clear, the mutual defense treaty applies to armed attacks on either of our armed forces, our public vessels or aircraft anywhere in the South China Sea.

Now I'm proud of the rapid strides that we've made to modernize our alliance, Mr. Secretary. We've made important progress to bolstering the capabilities and capacities of our armed forces to resist coercion and gray zone aggression.

And we're close to finalizing a security sector assistance roadmap that charts a path forward to strengthen deterrence and align our defense investments with the evolving security environment.

And as we discuss yesterday, we're also expanding our cooperation under the enhance defense cooperation agreement, which will make our armed forces more flexible and more resilient. And support our ability to train and operate together. 

And we're very pleased to have announced the locations of these four new sites recently. And finally, I want to affirm our commitment to strengthening interoperability across all domains, including space and cyberspace.

So Mr. Secretary, thanks again for being here. And I look forward to a great discussion. Over to you, sir.

CARLITO GALVEZ: Thank you, Secretary. My (inaudible) and also our ambassador (inaudible). 

Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for your warm welcome and also for the honors that you have given to me. And thank you for this opportunity of meeting you again this -- in Pentagon.

I've been here in 2006 and I never dreamt that I'll be here besides you, and I feel -- I belong in this family. 

Today’s meeting is a good opportunity to build on our discussions during your visit in the Philippines last -- (inaudible) and reaffirm our commitment to the Philippines-U.S. mutual defense treaty.

In addition to the most productive Two-Plus-Two, is the consultations that we had. The conduct of the Exercise Balikatan, the most, I believe -- the biggest among the 38, of this month are among some of the (inaudible) that our alliance is in hyperdrive.

Our regular exchange and close coordination demonstrate the extent of our defense relationship. And I have mentioned on several occasions that the importance of our Philippine - U.S. defense cooperation in the region, especially at this time when significant challenges are becoming increasing complex and evolving.

As I have said yesterday, is that our alliance is for peace. Our defense alliance is critical in assuring the safety and security of our citizens, and we continue to work together to enhance our capabilities to meet the current and future security challenges, including disasters.

To modernize our alliance we need to focus on separate areas. Number one is that we need a common understanding of our policies and priorities. That's why we will be having our defense guidelines. And upgrade our equipment to sustain our militaries’ capability to respond to threats. 

Second, we must enhance our cyber defenses to protect our critical infrastructures and sensitive information. 

Number three is we need to increase intelligence sharing and cooperation together against (inaudible) and respond to the challenges. And we want to thank you for giving us always the highest (inaudible). That really helps a lot. 

Fourth, we must improve interoperability between our forces to better coordinate and conduct joint activities.

May I also reiterate our, also to express our appreciation for the U.S. government's support to the Philippines government's management of the oil spill in Oriental Mindoro. 

Thank you very much. Mr. Secretary, with the phone call that we had it was materialized immediately, and we really thank you because it really helped us to manage the oil spill that we had.

I believe the -- where we -- went there, in Mindoro, together with the Coast Guard, they're very happy when the -- our army was able to patch up all the 23 leaks that we have identified with the ship.

We appreciate the unwavering support of the U.S. Navy through the deployment of remotely operated vehicle of the (inaudible), as well as the technical support provided by the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in order to -- for us to help contain, and scientifically respond with the crisis.

I am looking forward to another fruitful discussions to strengthen our alliance and work together towards the more peaceful and secure future. 

I would like also to inform your noble secretary that we have good responses with our former generals and also our colleagues, with the fruitful outcome of our 2 Plus 2, and they are very grateful for the important achievements -- the achievements that we have together as allies. Thank you.

SEC. AUSTIN: Mr. Secretary, again, thanks for being here. And we're delighted to have you back in the Pentagon. We look forward to working with you to strengthen our relationship. So thanks everybody.