US combat ship docks in Manila; PHL, Australia boost military ties

A littoral combat ship of the United States Navy has docked in the country, the Philippines and Australia signed a military logistics agreement that further deepened and strengthened the defense relations between the two countries.

The Philippines and Australia has an existing Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA) and Canberra has assisted the Philippine military in ending the occupation of Islamic State fighters of Marawi City in 2017 by providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

The Independence-variant USS Charleston (LCS 18) arrived in the country on Monday in what the US said was the first visit by a commissioned US Navy warship since 2019 that highlight the strong alliance and military relations between Manila and Washington.

“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,” US 7thFleet Commander Vice Admiral Karl Thomas said, as quoted by Lt. Lauren Chatmas of Command Destroyer Squadron 7.

The USS Charleston is on rotation deployment from San Diego, California under the Destroyer Squadron 7, supporting the Commander, Task Force 76/ Expeditionary Strike Group 7.

The warship’s presence followed the visit of US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s to Manila several weeks ago wherein President Duterte took back the Philippine government’s notice to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement with the US.

“The US security commitment to the Philippines is ironclad, and that commitment… extends to the South China Sea,” Austin assured in the presence of Charleston.

On the other hand, Australia said that the Mutual Logistics Support Arrangement  will make it easier for Manila and Canberra and to work together to address regional security challenges.

Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Steven J. Robinson AO said the agreement will provide a “solid framework for the Philippines and Australia’s defence organisations 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 defence engagement,” he said.

“For example, it will be easier for both countries to respond to humanitarian disasters in our region together,” he added.

The ambassador said the cooperation promotes the two countries “shared vision for a peaceful, inclusive and resilient region of sovereign states.” 30

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