October 30, 2023
MANILA – The Philippines and the United States agreed to intensify military engagements following China’s “serious escalation” in the West Philippine Sea.
A joint statement from the defense departments of both countries said Friday that this agreement was reached by Philippine defense chief Gilberto Teodoro Jr. and US defense chief Lloyd Austin III in a phone conversation.
“The Secretaries commended recent bilateral military cooperation, including the bilateral sail last month off the coast of Palawan, and committed to increase the pace and scope of U.S.-Philippines engagements,” the readout from both defense departments states.
Austin and Teodoro also committed to “redouble efforts to strengthen bilateral coordination, interoperability, and support for the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”
Deemed by Teodoro as a “serious escalation,” Chinese ships hit a resupply boat contracted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines as well as a Philippine Coast Guard vessel during a rotation and resupply mission for the grounded BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) on Sunday, October 22.
After the incident, Austin also echoed President Joe Biden’s pronouncement that Washington has an “ironclad” commitment to Manila’s defense under the Mutual Defense Treaty signed by both countries in 1951.
“Secretary Austin reinforced US support for the Philippines following the PRC (People’s Republic of China) Coast Guard and maritime militia’s dangerous obstruction of a Philippine resupply mission to Second Thomas Shoal on October 22,” the readout likewise states.
“The Secretaries discussed the incident on October 22, particularly the PRC’s dangerous and unlawful maneuvers that caused collisions with Philippine resupply and Coast Guard ships, putting the safety of Philippine vessels and crew at risk.”
“The Secretaries reaffirmed that the Mutual Defense Treaty extends to both countries’ public vessels, aircraft, and armed forces – to include the Coast Guard – anywhere in the Pacific to include the South China Sea,” it also says.