US defense chief expresses openness on possible MDT review
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper expressed openness on the possible review of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between US and Philippines.
"It's always good to look at these things from time to time, to review, clarify, and strenghten it, based on changes in the environment and the ... situation and clearly as some of you may know, the United States has adopted a new defense strategy last year, that reflects our assessment that we are now in an era of great power competition," Esper told reporters in a press conference after his bilateral meeting with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana in Camp Aguinaldo on Tuesday.
"It requires us to look at the rule differently and to build different capabilities and reposition ourselves, and besides the importance of this theater, the indo-pacific theater," he said.
"So I think for all those reasons it's good to do so, and the fact that we're strong and capable allies, and there's such a great friendship between our militaries and our peoples," he added.
Lorenzana said his proposal to review the MDT maybe tackled in one of the Mutual Defense Board - Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB) meeting within the year.
"We are actually in discussion about my proposal. I think in one of the MDB-SEB meeting sometime this year, it will be taken up. I don't think (about) what will be the outcome but it will be a joint cooperative endeavor," he said.
During the bilateral meeting, the two defense chiefs discussed matters that would strengthen cooperation between the countries.
"Secretary Lorenzana and I discussed a number of other areas to strenghten our defense cooperation, the United States will continue to support and ... to help modernize the Philippine armed forces and to improve maritime security in domain awareness," Esper said.
"We look forward to train in future joint air and maritime patrols to improve our interoperability and to demostrate our commitment to upholding the long standing international rules and norms," he said.
"We also discussed opportunities to enhance our joint military exercises, to strengthen cyber security awareness and to improve defense infrastructure to further implementation of the enhanced defense cooperation agreement," said Esper.
"I'm very pleased with outcome of today's meeting, our alliance with the Philippines is absolutely vital to the security and stability of Indo-Pacific which is our priority region. I'm confident that as we continue to work closely together we will meet the challenges of the future and preserve the gains that both our nations have worked so hard to achieve," he added. Robina Asido/DMS