By Camille A. Aguinaldo
UNITED STATES Commander of the Marine Forces Pacific (US MarForPac) Lt. Gen. Lewis A. Craparotta met with top military officials in his three-day visit to the Philippines from Feb. 16 to 18, to discuss opportunities for collaboration with the Philippine Marines Corps (PMC).
In a statement on Monday, the US Embassy said both the US and Philippines Marines unit held a bilateral exchange called the Philippine Marine Corps-MarForPac Marine-to-Marine Staff Talks during Mr. Craparotta’s visit.
The Philippine side was represented by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Lt. Gen. Benjamin Madrigal, Jr. and PMC commandant Major Gen. Alvin A. Parreño.
The US Embassy said Mr. Craparotta discussed the “specific lines of effort” previously outlined by former AFP chief Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. and US Indo-Pacific Command Admiral Philip S. Davidson that will frame the US and Philippine Marine Corps exercises and activities.
He also emphasized that the US military and its Philippine counterpart have a “long and lasting critical partnership for the region.”
“This week we are here to focus on training, readiness [and] interoperability, and not just for today and 2020, but really for the future,” he was quoted as saying.
Last September, Messrs. Galvez and Davidson signed agreements on security cooperation activities for 2019 during the Mutual Defense Board and Security Engagement Board Meeting in Quezon City.
The move signaled increased joint security activities between the two countries totaling 281 for 2019, higher than the 261 in 2018, according to the AFP.
For his part, Mr. Parreño said in his opening remarks that the Philippine Marines have been ready to address the defense and security challenges in the Pacific region.
“These Philippine Marine Corps-MarForPac Marine to Marine Staff Talks promote cooperation and interoperability between our forces. As the warriors from the sea and the crisis response force, we the Marines have always been ready and responsive to address the defense and security challenges of the Pacific region,” Mr. Parreño was quoted as saying.
“These topics also strengthen the trust and confidence that we have and promotes mutual security interests as well as contributing to global and security, peace security and stability,” he added.
The US Embassy noted that Mr. Craparotta’s first visit to Manila reaffirmed the US Marine Corps’ close ties with the PMC.
The Philippines has long depended on the US for military hardware and support. Last July, the US military provided equipment worth P178 million that would provide increased protection to the members of the Philippine Marines Corps during operations.
The two countries also have three standing military agreements, the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT), Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).