MANILA, Aug. 30 (PNA) — President Benigno S. Aquino III welcomed United States Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel who emphasized his country’s commitment to the “deep and unbreakable” alliance between the Philippines and the United States.
During a courtesy call at the Music Room of Malacanang Palace on Friday, Hagel expressed his gratitude to the Chief Executive for the warm welcome accorded him.
Hagel was sworn in as the 24th Secretary of Defense on February 27, 2013, becoming the first enlisted combat veteran to lead the Department of Defense.
Hagel’s visit to the Philippines is seen as a continuing US effort to assure the Philippines that it will help maintain peace in the region amid territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea.
The President met Hagel in a bid to enhance vibrant relations between the Philippines and the US on various issues of mutual concerns, especially in defense and security matters.
The Philippines is presently negotiating with the United States to institutionalize the policy of increased rotational presence of American troops through a framework agreement.
The negotiations will enable the Philippines and US to conduct activities such as bilateral exercises, including the prepositioning of equipment for disaster response and development of Philippine facilities, among others.
Joining the President in welcoming Hagel were Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Jesus Yabes, Armed Forces of the Philippine Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista, Defense Assistant Secretary Raymund Quilop, Foreign Affairs Acting Assistant Secretary Gina Jamoralin, among others.
Also in attendance were US Ambassador Harry K. Thomas Jr., US Department of Defense Chief of Staff Mark Lippert, Acting Assistant Secretary for Asia Policy Dr. Peter Lavoy, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense for Southeast Asia Vikram Singh and USMC Senior Military Assistant Lieutenant General Thomas Waldhauser.
Hagel is in Manila in the last leg of a week-long Southeast Asian tour that included Malaysia, Indonesia, and attendance to the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting in Brunei before returning to Washington August 30. (PNA)