President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. made history Wednesday as the first foreign head of state to be given full honors at the Pentagon under the administration of US President Joseph Biden.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin welcomed Marcos with full honors at the Pentagon.
The US Dept of Defense Protocol office said the full honors given to President was the first given to a foreign head of state or government under the Biden administration.
In their meeting, Austin expressed his country’s commitment to the defense of the Philippines. “President (Joseph) Biden has made clear our commitment to the defense of the Philippines is ironclad. And let me tell you once again that our Mutual Defense Treaty applies to armed attacks on our armed forces, coast guard vessels, public vessels, or aircraft in the Pacific including anywhere in the South China Sea,” Lloyd told Marcos.
“So, make no mistake Mr. President, we will always have your back in the South China Sea or elsewhere in the region,” he said.
In his remarks, Marcos said the “call of the times… is asking for us to meet the new challenges perhaps we have not faced before.”
“That’s why it is very important that it is continuing… the exchanges that we have started,” Marcos said. “I look to a very bright future between the Philippines and the United States – a future that is founded on the long experience and as you say, friendship and familial relationship because the people-to-people exchanges between our two countries have been ongoing at every level.”
The visit of Marcos at the Pentagon comes in the wake of the Philippines and the US reaffirming their security alliance amid tensions in the Asia-Pacific region.
Marcos and the American defense chief earlier met at Malacañan Palace in February.
During his courtesy call, Austin promised to help the Philippines modernize its defense capabilities as well as increase the interoperability of American and Filipino military forces.
In their meeting in Pentagon, Austin described the Philippines as an indispensable friend and ally of the United States. “Our alliance is rooted in our common democratic values,” he said.
Austin emphasized the degree of participation by combined military forces of allied nations under the Balikatan Exercises.
“The recently concluded — the largest and most complex iteration of ever of Exercise Balikatan and it included more than 17,000 troops in the Philippines, the United States, and Australia, training side-by-side across air, land, sea, and for the first time, cyberspace,” Austin said.
“And I said before Mr. President, we’re more than allies, we’re family and we share a common vision for free and open Indo-Pacific because a region governed by rules and rights help provide security and prosperity for our two countries and for the whole region,” he added.
President Marcos last week witnessed the live-fire sea drills involving the sinking of an old Philippine Navy ship, hoping the country could benefit from the enhanced cooperation with the US.
Balikatan, a Filipino term for “shoulder-to-shoulder” or “sharing the load together,” is the largest military exercise held annually between the two allied nations. This year marks its 38th iteration and the largest to date.
Balikatan provides an opportunity for the two armed forces to enhance cooperation, increase capabilities and improve interoperability in a conflict situation and disaster response. (PND)