2016 Joint Statement of the United States-Philippines Ministerial Dialogue
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter met with Philippines Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert F. del Rosario and Philippines Secretary of Defense Voltaire T. Gazmin on January 12 in Washington, D.C., for the Second U.S.-Philippines Two-Plus-Two Ministerial Dialogue.
U.S.-Philippine relations are anchored on a common history and a shared commitment to upholding democratic values and the rule of law.
Welcoming the Philippine Supreme Court’s decision that the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) is consistent with the Philippine Constitution, the Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to continue strengthening the Alliance, in terms of ensuring both countries’ mutual defense and security as well as jointly contributing to regional peace, stability, and economic prosperity.
Common Strategic Objectives
The Ministers reaffirmed the Alliance’s Common Strategic Objectives of 2012 and articulated the following additional Common Strategic Objectives to strengthen bilateral engagement:
• Expand opportunities for more robust cooperative security assistance programs, particularly on maritime security and maritime domain awareness.
• Pursue and coordinate programs with other interested partners for capacity building of the Philippines in defense, security, counter-terrorism, and maritime law enforcement.
• Collaborate on initiatives to enhance economic relations encompassing trade, investment, tourism, and development programs.
Bilateral Security and Defense Partnership
To enhance security and defense cooperation, the Ministers committed to:
• Enhance the Philippines’ maritime security presence and maritime domain awareness capabilities through, inter alia, the Maritime Security Initiative. The United States is transferring a third high-endurance cutter and a research vessel to the Philippines this year.
• Coordinate closely on the implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), a mutually beneficial agreement that will enhance the United States’ ability to provide rapid humanitarian assistance and help build capacity for the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
• Strengthen the defense capabilities of the Philippines in order to establish a credible defense posture through robust cooperative security assistance programs.
• Enhance military-to-military cooperation and inter-operability through, inter alia, joint exercises, capacity-building, and intelligence sharing.
• Support work to establish a robust information security program, which will lead to achieving a General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA). Towards this end, both sides decided to pursue an exchange of visits of the appropriate officials in 2016.
• Enhance cyber security cooperation.
The Ministers recognized the vibrant economic relationship between the United States and the Republic of the Philippines and decided to expand the relationship based on a mutual commitment to free trade, economic opportunity, and poverty reduction. The Ministers:
• Discussed ways to build a stronger and more robust economic partnership through increased bilateral trade and investment. The Ministers also discussed the keen interest of the Philippines in the Trans Pacific Partnership and its interest in bilateral consultations on the outcomes of the agreement and the process for new members.
• Noted that the first compact between the Philippines and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which is to be successfully completed in May 2016, contributed to the Philippine Government efforts to reduce poverty and corruption. Welcoming the Philippines’ selection for a second compact, they committed to work together to develop appropriate programs to address the constraints to the growth of the Philippine economy. They expressed optimism on the progress of identifying potential projects and reforms in the months ahead.
• Discussed ways to build a stronger, more robust, and more inclusive and resilient economic growth through continued collaboration in the areas of democracy and governance, economic growth, education, energy and environment, health, innovation, agriculture, and infrastructure development. They noted the strong collaboration of the Philippines with the U.S. Agency for International Development through the Partnership for Growth.
Regional and International Cooperation
The Ministers discussed regional and global challenges that threaten peace and stability and the rule of law. Secretary del Rosario and Secretary Gazmin welcomed the reaffirmation of the ironclad U.S. commitment to the defense the Philippines.
The Ministers underscored the need for all parties to refrain from provocative, unilateral actions that aim to change the status quo in the South China Sea, and noted that the ruling of the U.N. Law of the Sea Convention arbitral tribunal would be legally binding on both China and the Philippines. The Ministers also highlighted the importance of parties taking active steps to reduce tensions, including halting the reclamation, construction on, and militarization of outposts in the South China Sea and to refrain from any actions that harass, coerce, or intimidate other parties in the South China Sea.
In particular, the Ministers shared concern over recent test flights at Fiery Cross Reef, which exacerbate tensions and are inconsistent with the region’s commitments to exercise restraint from actions that could complicate or escalate disputes.
The Ministers expressed concern regarding large-scale land reclamation of occupied features, as well as the construction of new facilities and airstrips on them, and their impact on the marine environment, and recognized the importance of the SCS to the welfare and livelihoods of the many people who have for generations depended on the living resources of the South China Sea.
The Ministers strongly condemned North Korea’s recent nuclear test, which threatens regional peace and stability and directly violates multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions.
The Ministers affirmed their commitment to pursue a rules-based regional security architecture based on mutual respect and cooperation through engagements in multilateral platforms facilitated by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including the ASEAN Regional Forum, the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus, and the East Asia Summit.
On climate change, the Ministers expressed their commitment to implement the Paris Agreement. They also recognized that without adequate efforts to address climate change, the impacts of rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns may heighten the risk of instability and conflict, which necessitate actions to ensure survival of the most vulnerable populations.
The Ministers joined in condemning transnational crimes, radicalization, violent extremism, as well as crimes against humanity, and agreed to cooperatively address these issues.
The Ministers acknowledged the importance of today’s discussions and committed to hold the 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue regularly.