MANILA — Expect more bilateral security engagements in the coming months between the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China (PROC) as the two nations have agreed to strengthen their defense and military-to-military relations.
Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana made this announcement after meeting with his Chinese counterpart, General Chang Wanquan, Wednesday.
In the meeting that took place at DND headquarters, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, the two officials discussed and explored avenues wherein the two countries can improve defense and military-to-military relations.
“Riding on the improvement of our defense relations, it is only proper for us to move forward,” Lorenzana added.
The bilateral meeting centered on several key areas.
First was the enhancement of cooperation in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism, especially in intelligence sharing, joint counterterrorism exercises, and other specialized training.
Both defense chiefs underscored the need for countries to cooperate in order to eradicate the evils of terrorism which they considered a “common enemy.”
Lorenzana also thanked the PROC for its support in the Marawi operations, stating that its earlier donations of rifles and ammunition “helped a lot in our fight against the terrorists in Marawi”. Chang intimated that China plans to donate another batch of weapons and equipment later this year or early next year.
The second key area that both defense officials identified was the enhancement of maritime cooperation between the two countries, focusing on humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) and anti-piracy operations in the Philippines’ southern waters.
Both also agreed to increase visits of naval vessels as a sign of goodwill and friendship between the two countries. Third was the increase of military-to-military personnel exchanges between junior and field grade officers.
Lorenzana and Chang agreed that this will be beneficial to both countries since it will foster interpersonal relations between both militaries’ officer corps and future leaders of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
The fourth key area of discussion was China’s offer to the Philippines of its weapons and equipment to support the AFP modernization program.
Most significantly, the bilateral meeting touched on the South China Sea issue and how best to move forward.
Both defense chiefs welcomed the decrease of tensions between the two countries through careful management of the dispute brought about by the warming of relations between the Philippines and China.
Lorenzana and Chang welcomed the proposal to develop a concrete mechanism to solve issues immediately and avoid future conflicts.
“I believe we are in the right direction in our defense relations and I look forward to future Defense and security dialogues with China,” the DND chief added.