Lorenzana, US counterpart pledge to strengthen bilateral alliance
Aileen Cerrudo • November 19, 2019 • 130
Department of Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and United States counterpart Mark Esper pledged to strengthen the bilateral alliance of the Philippines and the United States during their meeting on Tuesday (November 19).
In a joint statement, the two officials both praised the Philippines-United States alliance and also pledged to improve information sharing to prevent terrorist attacks and the transit of foreign terrorist fighters in and through the Philippines.
“Both sides have committed to focus on developing capabilities and enhancing cooperation in both maritime and aerial domains through the conduct of the Philippines-United States Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board activities,” the statement reads.
Meanwhile, both countries also reiterated their commitment to upholding freedom of navigation, overflight, other lawful uses of the sea in the South China Sea.
Esper said they stand for international rules, pertaining to the maritime dispute between China and other Southeast Asian countries.
“The clear signal that we’re trying to send is not that we oppose China per se, but that we all stand for international rules and international laws and we think China should abide by them as well and that acting collectively is the best way to send that message to get China on the right path,” he said.
Both parties are also open to reviewing the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty of the Philippines and the United States.
“In my opinion, it has been made in 1951 at the height of the Korean War. And the situation then compared to now is different. So, we are now in the low-level discussion first,” Lorenzana said.—AAC (with reports from Harlene Delgado)
WASHINGTON – The United States president confirmed Sunday that the Pentagon has asked for the resignation of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer over his management of the case of a Navy SEAL who was demoted for misconduct.
In a statement, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Defense Secretary Mark Esper had requested Spencer’s resignation after “losing trust and confidence in him regarding his lack of candor over conversations with the White House involving the handling of Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher.”
In July, Gallagher was convicted for illegally posing next to the body of the dead jihadist for photographs during his 2017 deployment in Iraq, and acquitted him of a murder charge for allegedly killing an injured captive.
The case has attracted the attention of US President Donald Trump, who last week expressed his support for Gallagher and on Sunday night confirmed Spencer had been “terminated.”
“Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer’s services have been terminated by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper,” Trump said on Twitter on Sunday night, adding “Eddie will retire peacefully with all of the honors that he has earned, including his Trident Pin.”
The Trident pin is the badge that marks membership to the elite Navy SEALs.
Last week, the New York Times reported that Spencer and Naval Special Warfare Commander Rear Admiral Collin Green had threatened to resign if the Navy complied with Trump’s request to revoke Gallagher’s demotion, although Spencer denied the news.
Trump said Sunday he “was not pleased with the way that Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s trial was handled by the Navy.”
“He was treated very badly but, despite this, was completely exonerated on all major charges. I then restored Eddie’s rank,” Trump added.
In its statement, the Pentagon said that Esper spoke with the “commander in Chief” on Friday about the Gallagher case and found out that Spencer had privately proposed to the White House, contrary to his public position, to restore Gallagher’s rank and allow him to retire with the Trident pin.
The Department of Defense spokesman added that recently during a conversation between the two, Spencer never informed Esper of his private proposal to the White House.
In the statement, Esper said he is “deeply troubled by this conduct shown by a senior DOD official.”
“Unfortunately, as a result I have determined that Secretary Spencer no longer has my confidence to continue in his position,” Esper said.
Following recent events, Esper has also ordered that Gallagher retain his Trident pin.
Trump said that “Admiral and now Ambassador to Norway Ken Braithwaite will be nominated by me to be the new Secretary of the Navy.” EFE-EPA
MANILA, Philippines – Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Monday said he is not keen on recommending another extension of martial law in Mindanao after it expires on December 31, saying it has been going on for too long.
“Kung ako lang, I will not recommend anymore the extension. Matagal nang masyado eh. We can do our job naman,” Lorenzana told reporters in an interview in Camp Aguinaldo.
“Kaya nga, especially if the Senate or Congress can pass the, ‘yung Human Security Act na medyo mabigyan ng konting ngipin ‘yung ating law enforcement, then that’s a better arrangement than the martial law,” he added.
Proposed amendments to the Human Security Act of 2007 aim to broaden the definition of terrorism, ease restrictions on surveillance and extend the lawful detention of suspected terrorists to 30 days from the current three days.
Lorenzana earlier said these proposed changes would help the police and the military identify terror suspects and build tighter cases against them.
Mindanao has been under martial law since 2017 after Maute Terror group attacked Marawi City.
The martial law was initially set for 60 days but it was extended until the end of 2017, then until the end of 2018 and to the end of 2019.
However, Lorenzana said he will act accordingly if the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces decide to recommend another extension.
“We’ll see, we’ll evaluate the reasons of the military and the police and act accordingly,” he said.
Malacañang, meanwhile, said that President Rodrigo Duterte will take into consideration the recommendation of the defense and security officials before making a decision on whether or not to seek another extension of martial law.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Lorenzana’s pronouncement against prolonging martial rule would also be considered by the chief executive.
“That will be considered by the president. The president always says that he will defer to the advice or recommendation of those who are on the ground,” he told reporters at a Palace briefing. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Thursday (October 24) criticised Turkey for its military incursion into Syria, saying it had put the U.S. and its allies in a “very terrible situation”.
Last week, Esper said he would press NATO allies “to take collective and individual diplomatic and economic measures in response” to Turkey’s incursion into northeastern Syria, even as critics have pointed out that U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision enabled the Turkish offensive. Earlier this month, Trump announced that the United States would be withdrawing its troops from northeastern Syria, clearing the way for Turkish troops to launch an offensive against Kurdish fighters in the area.
“There was not a possibility that we were going to start a war with a NATO ally,” Esper said.
Speaking at an event organised in Brussels by the German Marshall Fund think tank, the Defense Secretary urged Ankara to demonstrate that it was still a “responsible” NATO ally.
The American pullout from northeastern Syria has raised concern that it could allow a resurgence of Islamic State militants.
Esper said he already talked to his British and French counterparts and that the U.S. was still committed to continue the fight against Islamic State militants. He was expected to discuss the topic further at a meeting of NATO defence ministers later in the day. (Reuters)
(Production: Christian Levaux, Jorrit Donner-Wittkopf)
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