By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

DEFENSE COOPERATION. Philippine Ambassador Teodoro Locsin Jr. (left) and The Earl of Minto Timothy Minto sign a memorandum of understanding at the Philippine Embassy in London on Jan. 11, 2024. According to UK Embassy in Manila, the cooperation is the cornerstone of the two countries’ defense relationship. (Photo courtesy of DFA)

MANILA – The Philippines and the United Kingdom have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that outlines the two states’ intended defense engagements in the next five years, with maritime domain expected to be among the priorities.

The MOU was signed between the Department of National Defense (DND) and the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) on Jan. 11.

Philippine Ambassador Teodoro Locsin Jr. signed for the Philippine side while The Earl of Minto Timothy Minto, Minister of State for Defence, signed for the UK side.

“The UK/Philippines MOU on Defence Cooperation is the cornerstone of our defence relationship,” the UK Embassy in Manila said in an email on Tuesday.

“It outlines the intent of our defence engagement for the next five years across a range of areas including military exercises, training and modernisation efforts. We can expect this engagement to focus on the maritime domain, Exclusive Economic Zone, hydrography and UK participation in future military exercises,” it added.

In a separate statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs said the MOU also seeks to provide a framework for enhancing bilateral cooperation on defense and military education, peacekeeping operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and research and technology, among others.

In the Joint Statement of Intent signed by Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo and former UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly in August 2023, the two nations agreed to further developing bilateral defense engagement to uphold the rules-based international order.

The two top diplomats at that time said UK and the Philippines will promote “a free and open maritime order” based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as the legal framework for all activities in the ocean and seas.

The statement further highlighted the two states’ commitment to “strengthen maritime law enforcement, marine environment protection, fisheries management and professional seafaring”.

The MOU signing also followed the October 2023 visit of then UK Minister of State for Defense Baroness Goldie to the Philippines, where she expressed the UK’s support to the Indo-Pacific and regional peace and security.

“The UK is proud of our relationship with the Philippines and defence forms a crucial part to this. We look forward to working closely to continue developing this engagement,” the UK Embassy said. (PNA)