From Left to Right: Hon. Enrique A. Manalo, Secretary for Foreign Affairs; H.E. Ambassador MaryKay Loss Carlson, US Ambassador to the Philippines; Hon. Jose C. Faustino, Jr., Senior Undersecretary and Officer-in-Charge, Department of National Defense; Prof. Jaime B. Naval, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of the Philippines Diliman.

Friends, partners, and allies. More than being a catchphrase, these three words have become the guiding principle that governs the relationship between the Philippines and the United States (US), as emphasized by the eminent speakers at the Mangrove Forum on International Relations held at the Charles Parsons Ballroom on 26 October 2022, organized by the Foreign Service Institute and the Embassy of the United States in Manila.

The Mangrove Forum titled “Moving Forward: The Philippines-US Alliance under the New Administration” discussed the future of the defense alliance between the Philippines and the US, and how the broader security partnership will respond to everchanging geopolitical realities.

In his keynote speech, the Honorable Enrique A. Manalo, Secretary for Foreign Affairs, highlighted the defense alliance between the Philippines and the US as the core of the two countries’ long-standing relationship. The operationalization of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and its foundational agreements allows the security engagement to go beyond traditional and military issues towards cooperation on non-traditional security issues such as climate change, terrorism, cyber-security, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Hon. Enrique A. Manalo, Secretary for Foreign Affairs delivers his Keynote address.

Secretary Manalo underscored the enthusiasm shown by both the Philippines and the US in discussing and ironing out certain issues that have tested the alliance over time. Both countries have actively engaged in dialogue and consultation to effectively address the questions and ambiguities surrounding the MDT.

US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Loss Carlson expressed optimism and appreciation for the renewed energy surrounding the bilateral alliance. She emphasized the US’ ironclad commitment to the MDT, defining the term ‘ironclad’ to characterize how secure and unbreakable her country’s commitment is in performing its obligations under the Treaty.

Amb. Carlson gave prominence to the common history and deep ties between the Philippines and the US, with the Philippines being an irreplaceable ally of the US. The alliance is currently facing daunting challenges, but the allies’ response to these challenges will determine the success of their shared vision of the future.

Amb. Carlson reiterated the US’ unwavering support of the Philippines, to aid the country in upholding the vision of an open, secure, peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific. Through the MDT, the VFA and the EDCA, the US continues to provide essential military assistance and further develop the Philippines’ defense capabilities. This level of tactical cooperation is further enhanced by dialogue and exchange at the strategic and policy-level, through meetings between foreign affairs and defense officials.

Senior Undersecretary Jose C. Faustino, Jr., Officer-in-Charge of the Department of National Defense (DND), recognized the endurance of the Philippines-US alliance, which has withstood various challenges over time. Usec. Faustino also noted how the MDT’s coverage has expanded, from military solutions to tackling non-traditional security issues. Usec. Faustino identified the Bilateral Security Dialogues between the Philippines and the US as a key factor in ensuring the relevance of the alliance, in developing defense capabilities, and addressing issues of strategic value.

Usec. Faustino identified certain measures to deepen and modernize the Philippines-US bilateral defense cooperation such as information-sharing, continuing high-impact and high-value exercises, revitalizing modernization efforts, establishing a self-defense posture, and increasing interoperability. Through tangible and practical efforts, the DND will continue to push forward the partnership to more than friends, partners and allies.

The discussants, Prof. Maria Ortuoste and Prof. Jaime B. Naval, presented insights and questions for the allies to ponder on. Prof. Ortuoste, Professor of Political Science from the University of California East Bay, recognized the efforts of both the Philippines and the US in improving and strengthening bilateral defense relations. Prof. Naval, Assistant Professor of Political Science from the University of the Philippines Dilliman, reflected on the landmark events on Philippines-US relations, specifically those relating to the MDT, and provided historical and theoretical context that influenced these events. That the MDT has lasted from 1951 to the present is a testament to the parties’ continued efforts to further the alliance.

The speakers expressed optimism for a reinvigorated security partnership and emphasized the importance of maintaining sincerity and trust to bring the bilateral relationship to greater heights.

The Mangrove Forum was attended in-person by officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of National Defense, members of the diplomatic corps, the academe and the media. Philippine foreign service posts and other guests overseas were able to join via videoconferencing.

Speakers address questions during the open forum