By Filane Mikee Cervantes

(File photo)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Thursday said the new United States-Philippines Bilateral Defense Guidelines, which chart their vision for alliance cooperation across all operational domains, will be responsive to the security challenges faced by both countries.

During a question and answer session at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, Marcos said “security and defense can no longer be isolated as one issue.”

“There are attendant and ancillary issues that hope — that helped solved the problem and that are part of the solution and so again we must really be looking towards the… for example, on the economic side, we must be looking to adjust our relationship as we all are trying to adjust and to transform our economies,” Marcos said.

In a meeting at Pentagon on Wednesday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to bolstering the Philippines’ defense capabilities as the allies develop a Security Sector Assistance Roadmap to guide shared defense modernization investments over the next five to 10 years.

The new bilateral defense guidelines aim to direct a “whole-of government coordination” as well as promote better coordination and bilateral planning to ensure the territorial integrity and security of both parties.

The guidelines would also institutionalize better interoperability and develop inter-agency capabilities of Philippine and American security establishments.

Marcos also stressed the need to focus on the new economy emerging from the post-pandemic world.

“And with the impacting forces of the war in Ukraine and those are some things — these are elements, these are issues that we never really had to deal with before,” the chief executive said.

On Ukraine-Russia conflict: ‘Protect sovereignty of each nation’

When asked about his takeaway from his meetings with US officials and lawmakers regarding international security, Marcos raised the need to protect the sovereignty of each nation in the face of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

“I think we are in full agreement that we must continue to protect the sovereignty, not just sovereign rights, but the sovereignty of each nation, no matter where they are and that the situation in Ukraine cannot continue and it is something that is really anachronistic in the modern world,” Marcos said.

Marcos said the Philippines had been straightforward in supporting the resolutions passed by the United Nations in the war in Ukraine.

“And that we respect the sovereignty and territoriality of every single nation in the world. And that applies most certainly because they are in this incredibly critical situation where an outright war is going on,” he said.

Marcos stressed nations should exert all possible efforts to bring peace to Ukraine.

Modernizing alliance

Shortly after the bilateral meeting between Marcos and US President Joseph Biden, the Department of National Defense (DND) is pleased to announce the finalization of the Philippines-United States Bilateral Defense Guidelines.

“With both countries’ commitment to ensure the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT)’s continued relevance to addressing contemporary and emerging security challenges, the Philippines and United States established the Bilateral Defense Guidelines which support a mutual understanding of roles, missions, and capabilities within the framework of the alliance,” DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement Friday.

He added that its finalization is in line with the announcement of President Marcos to strengthen and redefine Philippines-United States relations and the roles of the two countries in the Asia-Pacific and Indo-Pacific regions.

The Bilateral Defense Guidelines intend to institutionalize key bilateral priorities, mechanisms, and processes to deepen alliance cooperation and interoperability across land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace. 

It also recalls alliance foundations to include the reaffirmation of both countries’ commitment to the MDT and the conclusion of defense agreements and mechanisms that demonstrate the adaptability and evolution of the alliance in responding to both conventional and non-conventional challenges through the years.

Based on the guidelines, the two defense establishments aim to strengthen the defense partnership through enhancing alliance coordination and bilateral planning; expanding information-sharing; modernizing defense capabilities; deepening interoperability and people-to-people ties, combatting transnational and non-conventional threats, and contributing to global and regional peace and stability.

The release of the Bilateral Defense Guidelines marks an important milestone in the longstanding partnership between the Philippines and the United States. 

It serves as a testament to the strong and enduring partnership between the Philippines and the United States, and reflects the shared commitment of both countries to uphold peace, stability, and the rule of law in the region. (with Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)