WASHINGTON, D.C.—Underscoring the critical role the Philippines plays in the Asia-Pacific, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday assured Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. Del Rosario of Washington’s commitment to further strengthening its defense cooperation with Manila.
“Secretary Hagel conveyed to us the need for the Philippines and the US to further deepen their partnership to uphold peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific Region,” Secretary Del Rosario said after his meeting with the new US defense chief at the Pentagon.
“Secretary Hagel expressed his appreciation to what the Philippines is doing in the region and noted that our partnership is critical in our part of the world,” Secretary Del Rosario said. “He assured us the US will continue to do what it can to further strengthen its relations with the Philippines.”
“We also both agreed that our strategic alliance is crucial and relevant amidst the uncertainty and the security challenges in the region,” said Secretary Del Rosario, adding that the top American defense official has expressed satisfaction with the progress being made towards an increased US rotational presence in the Philippines.
The meeting with Secretary Del Rosario was Secretary Hagel’s first with a senior Philippine official since taking over the Pentagon in February. It followed the meeting also on Tuesday between Secretary Del Rosario and Secretary of State John F. Kerry—the former Massachusetts senator’s first face-to-face encounter with a senior Filipino official since he succeeded Secretary Hillary R. Clinton at the Department of State early this year.
Also present in the Pentagon meeting were Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia Jr.; Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for American Affairs Carlos D. Sorreta; Deputy Chief of Mission Maria Andrelita S. Austria; Defense Attache Brig. Gen. Cesar B. Yano; and Executive Director Rosalita S. Prospero of the Office of American Affairs of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
During the meeting, Secretary Del Rosario provided Pentagon officials, who included Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Peter Lavoy, an update on Manila’s efforts to peacefully resolve the disputes in the West Philippine Sea, particularly its decision to seek arbitration.
“The Pentagon was supportive of our arbitration initiative, especially because it is consistent with efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the dispute without resorting to coercion,” the Secretary said.
“I articulated that the Philippine Government is committed to see through the arbitration proceedings to its conclusion. We will not slow down on this effort,” Secretary Del Rosario stressed.
Also discussed during the meeting were US support for the modernization plans of the Armed Forces of the Philippines; the situation in Sabah and North Korea; and the investigation of the grounding of the USS Guardian, including the participation of the Philippines in the investigation and the conduct of an environmental impact assessment of the incident. END