A United States warship arrived in the country on Monday, the first port call since 2019 and after Manila renewed the bilateral Visiting Forces Agreement with Washington.
The visit of Independence-variant combat ship USS Charleston (LCS 18), a commissioned ship of the US Navy, highlights the strong alliance, military relationship, and renewed engagements between the Philippines and the United States, officials said.
Meanwhile, the Philippines and Australia have firmed up a defense agreement that would pave the way for reciprocal logistics support between their armed forces, a crucial agreement intended to address Canberra’s security concerns in the region.
In a statement, the Australian Embassy on Wednesday revealed that the Philippines and Australia have concluded a Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement, but stopped short of providing details on the scope of its MLSA with the Philippines and when it will take effect.
Manila also signed a similar agreement with the United States in 2002 and remains in force.
Amid the threat of COVID-19, the crew of USS Charleston will remain aboard ship and will only be afforded rest and replenishment of supplies, officials said.
The routine port visit is a continuation of the relationship as treaty allies, and furthers the friendship, partnership and alliance between the US and the Philippines.
The US routinely participates in 300 bilateral engagements a year—ships visits, component exercises and major training exercises such as the Balikatan, Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT), and Maritime Training Activity Sama-Sama which signify joint commitment to peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region.
“Our US Navy ships’ presence at sea and in ports like Manila promote security and stability that drives the peace and prosperity for the benefit of regional countries,” said Vice Admiral Karl Thomas, commander of the US 7th Fleet.
“We appreciate the flexibility to resupply our ships in the Philippines so that they are ready to support a free and open IndoPacific region,” Thomas pointed out.
Charleston is on a rotational deployment from San Diego, under Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) , supporting Commander, Task Force (CTF) 76 / Expeditionary Strike Group 7.
For his part, Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Steven J. Robinson said the Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement provided a solid framework for the Philippines and Australia’s defense organizations to conduct more complex engagement, and enhance interoperability in practical ways.
“As Australia and the Philippines face a rapidly evolving strategic environment, seeking new opportunities like this is increasingly important for deepening defense engagement,” Robinson said.
He added: “For example, it will be easier for both countries to respond to humanitarian disasters in our region together.
“Our cooperation promotes our shared vision for a peaceful, inclusive, and resilient region of sovereign states.”
Australia looks forward to fostering the mateship and bayanihan that underpin our defense cooperation as we celebrate the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year.