PH, UK commit to further strengthen defense, maritime cooperation, other partnerships

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 29) — The Philippines and the United Kingdom on Tuesday signed a joint statement of intent to affirm their commitment to "further elevate" defense, security, and maritime cooperation, among others.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo and UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly signed the document to upgrade the UK-Philippines Enhanced Partnership, which was launched in 2021, by outlining the areas of cooperation through a policy framework.

"It seeks to build on the exchanges that the two countries have been undertaking in the defense, security, maritime, climate, economic, and people-to-people ties since we launched our partnership in 2021," Manalo said in a joint briefing.

"The United Kingdom is an important long-standing partner of the Philippines, especially in this time of geographic changes, economic disruptions, and challenges to the rule of law," he added.

Cleverly said he also visited the Philippine Coast Guard to hear about efforts to uphold the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and protect the maritime environment.

The PCG and military personnel have been at the receiving end of "dangerous maneuvers" by China in contested areas in the West Philippine Sea. In one of the latest incidents, the Chinese coast guard fired water cannon at Philippine vessels to block their resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal.

The UK has condemned Beijing's incursions in the West Philippine Sea.

Manalo said Cleverly's visit, the first British foreign minister to do so since 2016, "signals the strengthening of the bilateral ties."

The Philippine foreign affairs chief also said bilateral relations remain "strong and robust."

The UK's top diplomat said he is seeing an "exciting time" in the bilateral relationship, founded on "shared values and shared beliefs of respect on freedom, rule of law, and adherence to that rule of law."

Cleverly said trade is now at "the highest level that it has ever been."

He said the UK aspires to increase trade with Manila, citing that UK-Philippines trade in goods and services stood at around £2.4 billion or around ₱172 billion per year.

He also thanked over 47,000 Filipino health care workers in his country.

"The UK is building enduring partnerships and the Philippines is one of those key partners," the British foreign secretary said. "We are like-minded countries, we share many values."

"I am certain that the prosperity of the UK and the prosperity of the Philippines will be very closely interwoven for many, many years to come," he added.