PH, US top military officials discuss cooperation, China harassment in phone call

The highest ranking military officials of the Philippines and the United States have committed to maintain close coordination and increased military cooperation amid the increasing cases of harassment of China on local vessels in the West Philippine Sea.


General Romeo Brawner Jr, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, talks with General Charles Brown Jr, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, via phone on Dec. 11, 2023. (photo: AFP)


In a statement released by the Armed Forces of the Philippines  (AFP), the issue on the West Philippine Sea was discussed during the phone call meeting between Gen. Romeo Brawner, Jr. and US chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Charles Brown, Jr. on Monday, Dec. 11.

“The two agreed to maintain close coordination amidst worsening illegal activities of the China Coast Guard targeting rotation and re-provisioning missions and patrols of Philippine government vessels in the West Philippine Sea,” the statement read.

“They also discussed mutual strategic security interests and opportunities for increased military cooperation,” it added.

AFP chief information officer Col. Xerxes Trinidad said the meeting of the two officials reaffirmed the AFP’s commitment to the Philippine-United States alliance under the framework of the Mutual Defense Treaty.

He said the phone call also upholds a rules-based international order and the shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific Region.

No need to invoke MDT

Brawner, however, said there is no need to invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) in the case of the repeated harassment of China in the West Philippine Sea.

“There is no need to invoke MDT because what was stated there is that it can only be invoked in case of armed attacks,” said Brawner in an interview over GMA 7. 

“And the water cannoning is not considered an armed attack,” he added, referring to the two succeeding water cannon incidents of Chinese Coast Guard in the West Philippine Sea over the weekend.

Not telling the truth

Brawner was among those on board a civilian vessel on a resupply mission for soldiers stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre at the Ayungin Shoal that was deliberately rammed by a Chinese Coast Guard ship on Sunday, Dec. 10.

This is the reason why Brawner could not help but laugh at the claim of China that it was the Philippine civilian vessel which deliberately hit their ship.

“They are not telling the truth because I was there in the vessel on a resupply mission and I personally saw the harassments they committed,” said Brawner.

“They are lying when they say that it was us that hit their vessel. This is really impossible because the civilian resupply vessel is very small compared to their ship,” he added.

Despite what happened, Brawner said the resupply mission for Philippine soldiers at the BRP Sierra Madre will continue.