President Rodrigo Duterte (MNS Photo)

MANILA, July 30 (Mabuhay) –President Rodrigo Duterte and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin have agreed on the two countries strengthening their alliance, particularly in curbing narcotics and addressing the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement on Thursday, Malacañang said Duterte received Austin hours after the American official  arrived in Manila to celebrate both nations’  75-year-old diplomatic ties and 70 years of the Mutual Defense Treaty.

The Palace added that the two officials agreed that the ties between the Philippines and the US could be heightened through “enhanced communication and greater cooperation, particularly in areas of pandemic response, combating transnational crimes, including drug war, maritime domain awareness, rule of law and trade and investments.”

Duterte thanked the US for its assistance in the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically, the US government’s contribution to the COVAX facility, from which the Philippines received more than 3 million doses of anti-COVID-19 vaccines.

Austin expressed his great respect to Filipinos. He said that the US was seeking a strong relationship with the Philippines as an “equal sovereign partner.”

Malacañang said the courtesy call between Austin and the Philippine Chief Executive lasted for 75 minutes.

Austin, who is on official visit in Manila until July 30, will also meet with his Philippine counterpart, Defense Chief Delfin Lorenzana and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. (MNS)

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