The Philippines and Indonesia are expected to renew a 1997 agreement to cooperate on defense and security when President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. goes to Indonesia for his first state visit on Sept. 4.
“The active defense and military engagement between our two countries is really anchored on a 1997 cooperative agreement in the field of defense and security or what is called the DSCA,” said Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ma. Teresita Daza in a briefing Friday.
“The agreement has expired and now we’re renewing this agreement. It will serve as the mother framework for all defense and security cooperation with Indonesia,” she added.
This developed as top defense officials from the Philippines and the United States are keen on further strengthening the military alliance between the two countries, the US Department of Defense said Friday.
In a statement, Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force BGen. Pat Ryder said Department of National Defense (DND) officer-in-charge Jose Faustino Jr. had a phone call with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III, the first time the two officials talked since Faustino assumed his post.
Both officials also scored the importance of enhancing the current ties, such as the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), to address “new and emerging challenges.”
As for the President’s trip, Daza said the South China Sea dispute between the two countries and China would be among the topics that Mr. Marcos would discuss with Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
She said the deal would be signed by the Philippine DND and Indonesia’s Ministry of Defense.
Daza said this was a significant development as defense cooperation between the two countries has increased over the years.
During the President’s visit, the two countries would also renew a memorandum of understanding on cultural cooperation, which will be signed by the Philippines’ National Commission for Culture and the Arts and the Ministry of Education and Culture of Indonesia.
President Marcos is also expected to bring up the case of Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipino on death row in Indonesia, where she was convicted of transporting illegal drugs.
Daza said Veloso’s parents had written President Marcos asking him to seek executive clemency for their daughter, who said she was tricked by her recruiters into bringing the drugs inside the lining of her suitcase, into Indonesia.
She was supposed to be executed by firing squad in April 2015, but a last-minute appeal from then President Benigno Aquino III and the arrest of the Filipino’s recruiters in the Philippines who allegedly planted drugs in her suitcase prompted Widodo to spare her life on the 11th hour.
From Indonesia, the President will fly to Singapore on Sept. 6 for a meeting with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
“[T]here will be discussions on key regional discussions of mutual interest, including the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea issues, cognizant that all three countries actually have the common goal of maintaining peace and stability and preventing incidents in this particular part of the world,” Daza said.
Both the Philippines and Indonesia have territorial disputes with China over portions of the South China Sea.
In Singapore, Marcos and Lee are expected to sign agreements on counter-terrorism and data privacy.
During both state visits, the President will also meet with business leaders in a bid to promote trade and investment.
“The President will also meet the Filipino communities in Indonesia and Singapore to personally assure them of the government’s continuing commitment to protect their rights and promote their welfare as overseas Filipinos,” the DFA said.
On a third trip later this month, the President will fly to New York City to address the United Nations General Assembly and meet with other world leaders.
Daza said Marcos will be addressing the UNGA on Sept. 20, during which he will highlight the Philippines’ role in international cooperation.
Daza also said that meetings with other world leaders are being worked out, including one with US President Joe Biden, as well as business meetings.
Marcos will also hold several business meetings organized by the Department of Finance and the Department of Trade and Industry, Daza said.
Like in Indonesia and Singapore, Marcos intends to meet the Filipino community in New York.
Last month, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez said Biden had invited Marcos to visit Washington DC.
The President’s visit to New York came after US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said Marcos, as head of state, can invoke his immunity when he visits the US.
Before winning the elections in May, Mr. Marcos was at risk of being required to appear in court in the US after failing to comply with a class suit ruling against his family. Non-appearance in court could lead to detention or being cited for contempt.