Philippines, United States ‘reinforce alliance’ through EDCA

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Philippines' Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario meet with United States' Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter at the second Philippines-U.S. 2+2 ministerial consultations held in Washington D.C. on January 12.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) – The Philippines and the United States agreed on Tuesday (January 12) that the recent Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) reaffirmed the strong alliance between the two countries.

“The recent approval of the EDCA opens up new opportunities to further deepen this enduring alliance, and indeed, we look forward to continued effort in this regard,” Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Albert del Rosario said before U.S. officials at the second Philippines-U.S. 2+2 ministerial consultations held in Washington D.C.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also welcomed the SC ruling, saying the U.S. looks forward to the implementation of the deal which will contribute to modernization and improve both countries’ response to humanitarian emergencies.

The two nations established relations 70 years ago, Kerry said, and U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter added the Philippines continues to be U.S.’ “critical ally.”

The EDCA allows the presence of foreign troops and facilities in the Philippines, based on the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement and 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.

Related: What you need to know about EDCA

‘Intertwined security interests’

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin acknowledged that the security interests of the two countries have “increasingly intertwined.”

“It is timely for the Philippines and the U.S. to focus on building a credible defense posture and enhancing interoperability for territorial defense, maritime security and maritime domain awareness, and humanitarian assistance and disaster response,” Gazmin said.

Kerry and Carter said U.S. will continue to help the Philippines on all regional security issues, including the dispute over the South China Sea.

“Our strategic relationship begins with a very firm pledge: that the United States has an ironclad commitment to the security of the Philippines,” Kerry said.

Carter noted the EDCA gave new opportunities for the Philippines to strengthen its role in maritime security and keeping a peaceful region, even as the U.S. continues to exercise freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

More than defense cooperation

“Our defense cooperation will always be a priority; but our bonds of friendship, it is fair to say, extend far beyond the priority of our defense cooperation. It includes trade and investment, people-to-people exchanges, a shared commitment to democracy, and support for health, education, and human rights,” Kerry said.

He added the U.S. was pleased that the Philippines got selected by the Millennium Challenge Corporation, an independent U.S. government agency that will fund critical projects focused on poverty reduction, inclusive economic growth and elimination of corruption.

“It's also why we are striving to grow our two-way trade, and it's why the United States welcomes the Philippines' interest in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP),” Kerry said.

Del Rosario said the Philippines remains in close consultation with the U.S. on how it can accede to the TPP at the soonest possible time.