US vows to back PH military modernization, aid Davao de Oro quake victims

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 2) — The United States on Thursday gave its commitment to help modernize the Philippine military and assist victims of the recent earthquake in Davao de Oro

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III made this pledge in a courtesy call on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at Malacañan Palace.

“From defense perspective, we will continue to work together with our great partners and to build and modernize your capabilities as well as increase our interoperability,” he told the president.

Amid disputes with China in the West Philippine Sea, Defense Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. said in a press briefing with Austin later in the day that Manila looks forward to strengthening cooperation with the US in maritime security.

Galvez also said the country hopes to get more assistance from Washington on securing aircraft that would improve disaster relief as well as search and rescue operations.

Meanwhile, Marcos thanked Austin for visiting the country amid a “very complicated situation” in the region.

He also said he sees the future of the Philippines tied to the United States due to the long-standing partnership.

The two allies signed a mutual defense treaty in 1951. The Philippines also hosted two giant US bases for decades until their closure in the early 1990s.

“As we traverse these rather troubled waters, geopolitical waters, the economic waters that we are facing, I again put great importance on that partnership,” Marcos told the US official.

During their meeting, Austin also said the US is prepared to help victims of the magnitude 6 earthquake that hit Davao de Oro on Wednesday evening.

“I think our AID (Agency for International Development) personnel are in the area, and they stand ready to help to provide humanitarian assistance when and where possible,” he said.

RELATED: Over 300 aftershocks recorded after Davao de Oro quake — Phivolcs

Shortly after Austin’s courtesy call, the Department of National Defense announced an agreement with the US to expand American military presence, giving the troops access to four new sites in the country.