PH and US Defense Secretaries Hold Dialogue

Amid developments in the West Philippine Sea, Secretary of National Defense Voltaire T. Gazmin and US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter meeting in Hawaii last May 27 agreed that greater coordination and enhanced collaboration between the Philippines and the US is the way forward. Both secretaries are alarmed with the massive land reclamation being undertaken by China in the West Philippine Sea including the recent warnings made by China's navy on Philippine and US aircraft undertaking legitimate patrols in the area.

Secretary Carter stressed that the US will continue to fly, sail and operate on areas allowed by international law. He expressed support for the Philippines taking the legal track. Reclamation must be halted and militarization of the area must be stopped, he said. Meanwhile, Secretary Gazmin said that unilateral actions could escalate tensions and lead to actual conflict; stressing that the Philippines has refrained from undertaking even the most minor repairs of its facilities so as to be in accordance with the 2002 Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

Secretary Carter reiterated that the US remains committed to Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty. Secretary Gazmin and Secretary Carter vowed to continue deepening bilateral defense and military relations through combined activities and regular policy consultations, to ensure that positions and actions are coordinated. Both secretaries vowed to explore opportunities for developing each other’s defense posture.

Secretary Gazmin was in Hawaii upon the invitation of Secretary Carter for the a change of command ceremony where Admiral Scott H. Swift assumed command of the US Pacific Fleet from Admiral Harry B. Harris, who assumed command of the US Pacific Command (PACOM) from Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III. The Philippine Legion of Honor (PLOH) was awarded to Admiral Locklear for his contributions in enhancing military cooperation between the Philippines and US during his tenure as the Commander of US PACOM. Joining Secretary Gazmin's delegation are Assistant Secretary for Strategic Assessment Raymund Quilop, Brigadier General Danilo Isleta and Lieutenant Colonel Marlo Jomalesa.