Sobejana discusses pandemic response, military cooperation with US military commander

Published June 15, 2021, 9:37 AM

by Martin Sadongdong

Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), has hosted a meeting with Admiral William Merz, commander of the US 7th Fleet, to discuss how to further strengthen the two nations’ cooperation on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response and military matters.

Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and Admiral William Merz, commander of US Armed Forces 7th Fleet, interact during a meeting at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on June 14, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Armed Forces of the Philippines)

Sobejana welcomed Merz and his team at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City on Monday, June 14.

Admiral Merz assumed command of the U.S. 7th Fleet in September 2019 and embarked aboard USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan. The US fleet is based in Japan.

In their meeting, Sobejana said he took the opportunity to express the AFP’s gratitude to the United States for providing assistance to the country in its national vaccination program.

“The AFP is grateful to the United States’ commitment in working closely with the Philippine government throughout the pandemic to protect public health. The arrival of AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines greatly augments the government’s efforts to ensure our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Sobejana said.

The Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences (AFRIMS) initiated by the US Army in 2009 has been extending opportunities to the medical laboratory technologists at V. Luna Medical Center on biosafety, biosecurity, respiratory sample processing and storage, and COVID-19 testing techniques.

Meanwhile, Merz thanked Sobejana for the “growing partnership” between the US Armed Forces and the AFP.

Admiral William Merz, commander of the United States Armed Forces’ 7th Fleet, visits Camp Aguinaldo in Wuezon City on June 14, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Armed Forces of the Philippines)

He cited the annual Balikatan Exercises as a “clear manifestation of both countries’ long-standing military alliance.”

Their meeting came just hours before President Duterte announced the suspension of the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

“The AFP and the U.S. Armed Forces’ cooperation and partnership will continue to thrive while we mutually find ways to step up our initiatives in addressing current security concerns,” Sobejana said.

“We shall keep developing visionary bilateral action plans in addressing potential future security concerns to maintain regional peace,” he added.

 
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