As President Obama touched down in Manila on Monday, the Philippine government unveiled a wide-ranging update to the country’s security cooperation with the United States. The Philippine-US Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement provides “new momentum for our partnership and opens up fresh avenues of bilateral cooperation,” said Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario in a statement issued after the two nations signed the agreement on April 28, Manila time, after nearly two years of negotiations. The 10-year agreement addresses US-Philippine defense issues, such as interoperability of forces; capacity building to facilitate Philippine defense force modernization; improving Philippine maritime security and domain awareness; and enhanced humanitarian assistance and disaster response, or HADR, posture. At the invitation of the Philippine government, the United States gains access to “designated areas” in Philippine military-owned and -controlled facilities and will construct new facilities and undertake infrastructure upgrades, states a fact sheet from the Philippine foreign ministry. However, the United States will “not establish a permanent military presence or base in the Philippines,” it states. The two nations will also set up prepositioned stocks of defense and HADR equipment, supplies, and material. US service members will now rotate through Philippine facilities, increase training activities, “build the Philippines’ defense capabilities” and “work with other nations to promote regional stability, such as in the South China Sea,” said Obama during an April 28 joint press conference with Philippine President Benigno Aquino.
The Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness revised the Defense Department’s COVID-19 guidelines. The new rules clarify what’s meant by being “up to date” on vaccinations and when personnel must wear masks in vehicles, among other changes.