US Defense chief cites 'productive' meeting with Duterte

Published July 29, 2021, 11:15 PM

by Roy Mabasa

Visiting United States Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III on Thursday concluded a “productive meeting” with President Duterte in Malacañang Thursday night.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III and President Duterte before the start of their meeting in Malacanang, Thursday night. (PCOO)

“I just left a productive meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte. We discussed the importance of the U.S.-Philippines alliance and the strong ties between our people,” Austin said in a tweet after their meeting.

During his meeting with Duterte, Austin emphasized the American support for the US–Philippines military alliance, calling it “a lynchpin” of a free and open Indo Pacific region.

Austin also underscored their commitment to the US bilateral relations with the Philippines, especially in further strengthening the two countries’ security partnership and alliance.

Duterte has yet to approve a new Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US more than a year after he officially sent notice of termination.

The top US defense official who arrived in Manila Thursday afternoon for a two-day visit is likewise expected to meet with other partners in the Philippine government to discuss avenues to further strengthen security cooperation between the two countries.

Austin was met upon his arrival at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City by US Embassy Charge d’Affaires John Law and key officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The US defense chief is in the final leg of his three-country swing in Southeast Asia that includes Singapore and Vietnam.

Under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, the US and the Philippines are bound to support each other in the event of an external attack against any of the two countries.