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PH and US Convene Two Plus Two Meeting

The West Philippine Sea/South China Sea was the focus of discussions in the recently concluded Two Plus Two Ministerial Consultations between the Philippines and US. Meeting their respective counterparts, Secretary of National Defense Voltaire T. Gazmin and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert Del Rosario stressed the necessity of building the capability and capacity of Philippine defense forces to enable them to meet security challenges. 

A capable Philippine defense force would also be a contribution to regional stability. And while the Philippines has made significant progress in its capability upgrade program given the sustained support of the Aquino Administration, contributions from strategic partners to include the US would further boost the AFP's capability, Secretary Gazmin stressed. The US noted the sustained increase in the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) allocated for the Philippines and anticipates that Manila would get the “lion's share” in the US Maritime Security Initiative, a program approved by the US Congress meant to enhance the maritime capacity of Southeast Asian countries to include the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. 

While the US secretaries acknowledged Chinese presence in the South China Sea, they stressed that China would not be allowed to control the area and called on the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia to craft a common understanding of “militarization”. China has consistently argued that it is not militarizing the South China Sea as it merely employs civilian vessels, civilian perhaps in character but military-grade in capability. The US, its defense and state secretaries committed to maintain the presence of its naval, sea-sea, air and special forces in the South China, stressing that the Philippines is a critical ally in the US pursuit of its rebalance in the Asia-Pacific.

Beyond increases in FMF and big share in the MSI, the Philippine secretaries stressed the need for the Philippines and the US to work together in preserving peace and stability in the South China Sea, with going beyond exercises and training activities to collaborative undertakings such as joint patrols in the Philippine territorial and jurisdictional areas. The involvement and participation of other key regional partners in Philippine-US exercises and activities, to include Australia and Japan was welcomed by the four secretaries.