MANILA—Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and his American counterpart, Ashton Carter, paid a visit to the Antonio Bautista Airbase in Puerto Princesa, Palawan Friday afternoon.
The military facility is one of the five agreed locations under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the US and Philippines.
Shortly afterwards, the two defense officials then flew over Recto Bank and landed on the supercarrier, the USS John C. Stennis and witnessed flight deck operations.
They also were briefed on the carrier’s history and taken on a tour around the ship.
Both secretaries also talked to the men and women of the carrier battle group.
Carter thanked his troops and sailors for their active participation in the Philipine-US Exercise “Balikatan” and reiterated the significance of their presence in the region.
“China’s actions are causing anxiety and raising tensions. In response, countries in the Asia Pacific that are long standing allies and new partners are reaching out to the US to uphold the rules and principles that would allow the region to thrive, and we are answering that call, we are standing with these countries, we are standing up for those rules and principles,” he added.
This year’s “Balikatan” exercises started April 4 and ended on the 15th.
While Gazmin expressed his gratitude to the American sailors who took part in the “Balikatan” exercises, highlighting the strength of the Philippine-US Alliance.
“This is a clear exemplification of ‘honor, courage, commitment,’ the core values of the US Navy,” he added.
“We are as ever reliant on the strong bond of sympathy and mutual ideals shared by our our two peoples, close friends and allies, to fight side-by-side against the threats of external aggression as we did in the past,” the Philippine defense chief said.
Gazmin ended his remarks to the Sailors by welcoming them to the West Philippine Sea.
“It is in the spirit of of the ideals of our alliance and close relationship that we welcome the gallant crew of the USS Stennis … to the clear waters of the West Philippine Sea,” he said.