By Priam Nepomuceno

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III (left) and DND OIC-Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. (right) (PNA file photo by Joey Razon)

MANILA – Department of National Defense (DND) officer-in-charge Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. lauded three of the country’s senators for expressing their support to the move of the Philippines and the United States to designate four more locations as Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites and the possible conduct of joint maritime patrols.

“On behalf of the DND, I sincerely thank our lawmakers for expressing their support for EDCA and the resumption of joint PH-US maritime patrols,” he added in a statement late Sunday.

Galvez said it is encouraging for the DND to know that lawmakers are aware of the importance of EDCA and joint maritime patrols to the national interest.

He was referring to the favorable sentiments shared by Senators Francis Tolentino, Francis Escudero and Sherwin Gatchalian on these favorable Philippine defense and security developments last week.

Tolentino was earlier quoted as saying as “I am in favor of defense/security cooperation ‘upgrades’ with reliable allies like the United States, considering the evolving regional conditions and challenges, so long as this is anchored on solid constitutional foundations and for the greater interests of the nation and EDCA is evidently a good model.”

Meanwhile, Escudero said there is no reason for the Philippines not to continue its joint patrols with the US considering that America has been the country’s ally since the late 1940s.

Escudero also emphasized that joint patrols would help reduce encroachments and acts of harassment in the area.

Meanwhile, Gatchalian shared that joint patrols and other cooperative military activities with the US would enhance military interoperability between the two countries.

Gatchalian also stressed that these activities are not limited to combat operations but also cover disaster preparedness efforts.

Galvez also expressed hope that local government units realize that the EDCA is not just about security.

“We enjoin them to look into the potential foreign investments and economic development that EDCA sites will bring to their communities as well as the enhancement of the protection of our areas that are vulnerable to the effects of climate change and the quicker disaster response and mitigation if our front-liners are called to action,” he added.

Galvez stressed that these efforts being done by the DND to boost the country’s capabilities are consistent with the President’s foreign policy of being a friend to everyone and an enemy to no one.

“It is truly encouraging that our distinguished senators are aware of the importance of EDCA and joint maritime patrols to our national interest. I thank them again for their support,” he added.

Also, Galvez said the Philippines shares the vision of like-minded nations in ensuring freedom of navigation and a peaceful, stable and free Indo-Pacific.

“As a member of the international community, we have a responsibility to protect the global commons in order to prevent humanity from constricting itself by ensuring that vital sea lines of communications are kept open. We must also promote responsible stewardship over our marine resources which are being threatened by overfishing and man-made ecological degradation,” he added. (PNA)