The text of the following statement was released by the governments of the United States of America and of the Philippines on the occasion of the U.S.-Philippines 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue.
Secretary of State Blinken, Secretary of Defense Austin, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Manalo, and Senior Undersecretary and Officer in Charge (OIC) of National Defense Galvez (referred to collectively as “the Secretaries”) convened the third U.S. Philippines 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in Washington, D.C., on April 11, 2023.
Recognizing the importance of the U.S.-Philippines alliance to regional peace and stability, the Secretaries put forth a shared vision that supports the international rules-based order, deepens our economic ties, provides for our peoples’ broad-based prosperity, and addresses evolving regional and global security challenges.
The Secretaries welcomed and built on commitments made at the 10th Bilateral Strategic Dialogue, held in Manila on January 19 and 20, 2023, encompassing topics such as defense, climate and energy policy, sustainable and inclusive economic growth, food security, maritime affairs, civil space cooperation, and democracy and human rights.
Respect for the Rules-Based Order in the Indo-Pacific and Around the World
Acknowledging that the futures of our countries are not only intertwined with each other’s but also that of the region and the rest of the world, the Secretaries reaffirmed their support for unimpeded lawful commerce and full respect for international law, including freedom of navigation and overflight, and other lawful uses of the sea. They exchanged views on key regional and global developments that threaten global peace and the international rules-based order. The Secretaries:
- Underlined their strong objections to the unlawful maritime claims, militarization of reclaimed features, and threatening and provocative activities in the South China Sea, including the recent attempts of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to disrupt the Philippines’ lawful operations at and around Second Thomas Shoal and the repeated massing of PRC maritime militia vessels at several sites within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), including, but not limited to, maritime areas in the vicinity of Iroquois Reef, Sabina Shoal, Second Thomas Shoal, and Whitsun Reef. Such activities also interfere with the livelihoods of fisherfolk and undermine Philippine food security;
- Called on the PRC to fully comply with the final and legally binding 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea. The Award, which was constituted under the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention, is final and legally binding on the parties, and validates the Philippines’ sovereign rights and jurisdiction with respect to its EEZ and continental shelf, including maritime areas in the vicinity of Reed Bank, Mischief Reef, and Second Thomas Shoal also known in the Philippines as Recto Bank, Panganiban Reef, and Ayungin Shoal, respectively;
- Noted with concern recent reports regarding further conduct of covert land reclamation on unoccupied features in the Spratly Islands and rejected the use of reclamation as a means of rationalizing or propagating unlawful maritime claims, in direct contravention of the principles outlined in the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea;
- Reiterated the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait as an indispensable element of global security and prosperity;
- Condemned the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) unprecedented number of unlawful and reckless ballistic missile launches over the past year, reaffirmed their commitment to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and urged Pyongyang to abide by its obligations under UN Security Council resolutions;
- Reaffirmed support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters; and
- Reiterated the importance of multilateralism, sustained dialogue and cooperation, and the peaceful settlement of disputes based on international law, in maintaining peace and stability in the region and around the world.
Mindful of the growing complexity of the Indo-Pacific security environment, including the multidimensional nature of modern challenges and threats to the peace and security of the Philippines and the United States, the Secretaries reaffirmed their shared determination to defend against external armed attack in the Pacific, which includes the South China Sea, in accordance with the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), and redoubled their commitment to modernizing U.S.-Philippines alliance cooperation to bolster our combined deterrence. Both sides further look forward to continuing discussions regarding the nature of threats that may arise in different domains — including land, sea, air, space, and cyberspace — and effective responses. The Secretaries highlighted their intent to work toward building interoperability and cooperation in both conventional and non-conventional domains.
To this end, the Secretaries committed to:
- Strengthen bilateral planning and interoperability to ensure readiness to respond to a range of crises and scenarios, through the conduct of high impact and high value joint exercises, trainings, and other activities as well as by fast tracking ongoing discussions on a new U.S.-Philippines Bilateral Defense Guidelines;
- Prioritize the modernization of shared defense capabilities, particularly in the maritime domain, through various modalities, including U.S. Foreign Military Financing and Excess Defense Articles. The adoption of a Security Sector Assistance Roadmap in the coming months will guide shared defense modernization investments and inform the delivery of priority platforms over the next 5 to 10 years. In addition, the Security Sector Assistance Roadmap will identify areas for capacity-building to enhance the Philippines’ core institutions and support security sector governance. Meanwhile, both sides underscored the importance of fast-tracking discussions on an acquisition plan for a fleet of multi-role fighter aircraft for the Philippine Air Force, as well as of leveraging the additional $100 million in Foreign Military Financing that the United States announced last fall to acquire medium lift helicopters;
- Accelerate the implementation of EDCA projects and increase investments in EDCA Agreed Locations to further support combined training, exercises, and interoperability between the U.S. and Philippine Armed Forces, as well as the Philippines’ civilian-led disaster preparedness and response capacities. The United States expects to have allocated over $100 million by the end of fiscal year 2023 toward infrastructure investments at the existing five EDCA sites and to support swift operationalization of the four new sites;
- Complement combined military training and exercises as well as EDCA-related projects with community-based activities of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), including on increasing access to safe water supplies, education, and healthcare, sustainable fisheries management, biodiversity conservation, and energy security;
- Finalize plans for the resumption of combined maritime activities, including the conduct of joint sails by the U.S. and Philippine navies, in the South China Sea. Both sides also discussed plans to conduct multilateral maritime activities with other like-minded partners in the South China Sea later this year;
- Expand information-sharing on the principal challenges confronting the U.S.-Philippine alliance, including through the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness initiative and the conclusion of a bilateral General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) before the end of the year, with the goal of enabling real-time information-sharing and technology cooperation across domains;
- Expand cooperation, exchange best practices, and increase strategic convergence on counterterrorism and addressing gray zone challenges, including for protecting critical infrastructure against attacks emanating from state and nonstate actors and for promoting civilian-led, non-military counter-terrorism initiatives, where feasible and effective, using an inclusive, rights-based, victim-centered, and whole-of-society approach to counterterrorism; and
- Continue dialogue and cooperation to advance the protection of human rights in the security sector, and the promotion of the rules-based order across the Indo-Pacific region.
Economic and Environmental Security
Acknowledging that the Alliance must be able to address security in its broadest sense and deliver direct, substantial and tangible benefits to our peoples and future generations, the Secretaries committed to exploring additional avenues to enhance economic engagement and to:
- Continue to advance the shared agenda for inclusive and sustainable economic growth through the modernization of infrastructure, the digital economy, enhanced agricultural productivity, promotion of renewable energy and green technologies, and enhanced food and energy security;
- Further collaborate in building resilient supply chains and safeguarding critical and emerging technologies. This includes working together to develop and build the resilience of the Philippine and U.S. semiconductor industries;
- Build on the successful cooperation to date in supporting the Philippines’ COVID-19 pandemic response by charting new ways to become more resilient for future health emergencies, including by improving the shared ability to prevent, detect, and respond to outbreaks of infectious diseases;
- Work together under the theme “Creating a Resilient and Sustainable Future for All” to ensure the 2023 U.S. APEC host year is successful in advancing an interconnected, innovative, and inclusive region;
- Convene before the end of 2023 a kick-off planning session for the first meeting of the Joint Committee under the 2019 Science and Technology Agreement, which is a tool to promote scientific collaboration, build relationships between U.S. and Philippine scientific institutions, and provide opportunities to exchange ideas and information to advance scientific and technological endeavors of mutual interest. Particular consideration will be given with respect to virology and vaccines, combating non-communicable diseases, and ridge-to-reef cooperation;
- Through the U.S.-Philippines Food Security Dialogue, exchange best practices for agricultural innovation, sustainability, and transforming food systems by adapting nutritious crops to climate change, improving soil health, and strengthening value chains to ensure reliable access to a safe food supply in the face of future shocks;
- Identify opportunities for future collaboration in enhancing disaster preparedness, and for the protection and conservation of the Philippines’ rich coastal and marine resources. The Secretaries highlighted the U.S. assistance and technical support provided to the Government of the Philippines in response to the oil spill off the coast of Oriental Mindoro. They applauded the successful coordination of response efforts between the Philippine Coast Guard, Japan Disaster Relief team, and a U.S. team of subject matter experts from the U.S. Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S. Navy. The Secretaries noted ongoing cooperation, including the sharing of satellite imagery to inform oil spill monitoring and forecasting;
- Build on successful multilateral civil space cooperation within the Asia Pacific region. The United States and the Philippines are committed to holding our first civil space bilateral dialogue in Washington by July 2023. The Secretaries further committed to promote the use of space-based technology in supporting the Philippines’ climate resiliency response and to advance mutual interest in the use of remote sensing and Earth observation applications.
- Enhance cooperation in addressing the climate crisis and prepare for and prevent its worst impacts, including on vulnerable populations. To this end, the Secretaries further committed to collaborate on assessments of climate threats, and incorporating these assessments into joint planning, innovation, training, investments and financing to accelerate and increase renewable energy capacity as well as the grid expansion needed to facilitate its deployment, in support of the Philippines’ clean energy transition. They welcomed the recent launch of the U.S.-Philippines Offshore Wind Development Partnership as an important step towards delivering crucial technical assistance to accelerate offshore wind development. They also decided to explore partnerships and promote public-private initiatives on climate transition financing;
- Launch the Energy Policy Dialogue, a high-level platform for the two nations to develop new forms of energy cooperation, including on short- and long-term energy planning, offshore wind development, rooftop solar capabilities, nuclear energy for electricity generation, and grid stability and power transmission;
- Pursue negotiations for a potential U.S.-Philippines Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, or 123 Agreement, to provide a legal framework for possible nuclear cooperation between the United States and the Philippines, as well as continue capacity building efforts on small modular reactors as potential clean energy solutions under the Foundational Infrastructure for Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology (FIRST) Program;
- Scale up cooperation and partnership with respect to strategies on critical minerals processing and sustainable and green mining, and new prospecting activities, among others;
- Promote the modernization of the Philippines’ infrastructure and cooperate on high-standard, sustainable, private sector-led infrastructure investment as a means of supporting economic growth and enhancing connectivity in the Philippines, including within the framework of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII), the Blue Dot Network, and Transaction Advisory Fund (TAF). The Secretaries welcomed new activities announced by the U.S. Trade & Development Agency, including a feasibility study on airport security screening at the Manila International Airport, a Smart Grid Reverse Trade Mission to bring Philippine grid operators to the United States, and a healthcare workshop in the Philippines focused on medical device regulatory frameworks. They also directed their respective sides to establish a future workshop for Philippine government and private sector contacts on subsea cables;
- Pursue further cooperation, under a programmatic approach, to build the Philippines’ capacities to effectively implement its trade and investment reform agenda, including to strengthen Philippine investment screening and countering proliferation finance mechanisms to allow for transparent and accountable review of certain foreign investments and protect national security while maintaining an open and business-friendly investment climate;
- Deepen our bilateral trade and investment relationship under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA);
- Continue to work together through negotiations under the four pillars of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF).
Recognizing that the Alliance is more effective when acting in concert with other likeminded partners, the Secretaries:
- Reaffirmed their strong support for the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific and emphasized that partnerships and arrangements in the Indo-Pacific should uphold ASEAN centrality in the evolving rules-based regional security architecture;
- Committed to consultations regarding the Australia-United Kingdom- United States (AUKUS) trilateral security partnership, and its objectives to promote peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific;
- Welcomed the Quad’s commitment to support a peaceful and stable, rules-based region with ASEAN at the center, through its efforts to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific;
- Acknowledged the importance of further promoting economic and security cooperation with other partners in Southeast Asia through such activities as joint training and capacity building, including for counterpart nations’ coast guards; and
- Identified concrete opportunities to expand operational coordination particularly with Japan and Australia, including through observation and/or participation in trilateral and multilateral exercises and the continuation of the Japan – Philippines – U.S. Trilateral Defense Policy Dialogue.
Finally, and most importantly, the Secretaries acknowledged the central role of people-to-people ties—cultivated by generations of Filipinos and Americans, including Filipino-Americans—in driving the bilateral relationship forward. The Secretaries:
- Noted the more than 8,000 Filipino alumni of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs, many of whom have risen to senior leadership positions in the Philippines, and hailed the 75th anniversary of the Fulbright Philippines program, which is the oldest continuing Fulbright Program in the world. The Secretaries also committed to exploring new resources to support Fulbright’s efforts in developing expertise that are critical to the partnership and alliance;
- Recognized the vital contributions of the more than four million Filipino-Americans to the progress and security of the United States. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Filipino-American health professionals were among those at the frontlines of protecting their communities. Filipino-Americans have made, and continue to make, a positive impact as teachers, service members, artists, financial and social services workers, tech innovators, and civil rights advocates. The Filipino Young Leaders Program (FYLPRO) and IMPACT! Program for Filipino-Americans, which were developed in partnership with the Philippine Government, are notable for helping to build a pipeline of Filipino-American leaders who advocate for their communities’ interests and serve as a bridge between the two countries; and
- Celebrated the continued array of exchanges, including two inaugural events sponsored by the United States government within the preceding two months—the first ever National Youth Development Alliance Summit, held in Davao, to strengthen city government programs for employing and educating out-of-school youth around the Philippines; and the first ever Civil Society Organization Summit to Protect Philippine Marine Resources and Biodiversity in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, for the purpose of coordinating action for marine biodiversity conservation and protection in the coastal areas of Northern Luzon, Mindoro, and Palawan.