Lorenzana welcomes UK carrier's voyage to SCS

Lorenzana welcomes UK carrier's voyage to SCS

MANILA, Philippines — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has welcomed the United Kingdom’s decision to field its Carrier Strike Group to the South China Sea and the expected port visit to Manila of one of the strike group’s component ships.

Speaking with British Ambassador Daniel Pruce in an online telephone conference last Wednesday, he said such a voyage will demonstrate freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific region.

Lorenzana said this will also promote closer bilateral relations between the Philippines and the UK as he shared ongoing efforts in the Philippines to raise understanding and build capacity in dealing with the situation in the South China Sea.

Pruce, on the other hand, reiterated the British position on the issue of conflicting claims in the South China Sea, emphasizing that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) must take precedence.

He also assured Lorenzana of the UK’s readiness to provide support in related capacity-building efforts to the Philippines.

Lorenzana and Pruce took up other matters concerning Philippines-UK defense cooperation, such as acquisition projects, counterterrorism and the establishment of a resident defense attaché post in the territory of the other as the Philippines and the United Kingdom will be convening the 2nd Joint Defense Committee (JDC) Meeting in June 2021.

Both officials likewise exchanged updates on the vaccine rollout, challenges encountered, as well as other developments regarding the COVID-19 situation in the Philippines and the UK.

Lorenzana, during the call, expressed his appreciation to the ambassador and recognized the UK’s role in the delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the Philippines.

In their discussions, DND spokesman Arsenio Andolong said both officials emphasized the importance of cooperation in dealing with common challenges such as the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the Philippines and Japan have agreed to further strengthen bilateral relations and defense cooperation and address issues affecting both nations.

Lorenzana and Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi met via video teleconference on Wednesday to discuss bilateral defense relations and regional security concerns.

Andolong said both officials noted the increasing activities between the militaries of the Philippines and Japan across all major services and agreed that the Philippines and Japan should further deepen cooperation in all areas.

Lorenzana expressed appreciation for Japan’s continuous support to the capability-upgrade program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and highlighted that the TC-90 aircraft from Japan are being utilized for the AFP’s reconnaissance missions.

Kishi, for his part, said efforts concerning the transfer of radar systems to the Philippines are progressing smoothly.

Andolong said both sides also acknowledged the importance of cooperation on infectious diseases in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Kishi thanking the Philippines for its support and participation in the recently conducted virtual Japan-ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) program, which focused on the military’s role in addressing the pandemic.

Both defense officials discussed various regional security issues, including the situation in Southeast Asia, Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea and East China Sea.

Expressing grave concern over unilateral actions in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea and East China Sea, Lorenzana and Kishi underscored the need for all parties to uphold the principles of freedom of navigation and to exercise self-restraint in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, specifically the UNCLOS.