U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has provided precision-guided missiles and other weapons to help its former colony, the Philippines, fight terrorists, and renewed a commitment to defend its treaty ally should it come under attack in the disputed South China Sea.
National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, who represented the Trump administration at a ceremony Monday at the Department of Foreign Relations in Manila, where he announced the delivery of the missiles and bombs to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Trump has pledged, according to Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., to provide $18 million worth of missiles in a telephone conversation with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in April.
O’Brien has also expressed his condolences to the Philippines after back-to-back typhoons caused devastation and deaths in the country and outlined the United States’ assistance to the country in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
O’Brien has represented the Trump administration at a recent online summit that includes leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the US, as well as an expanded summit of East Asian heads of state attended by China and Russia which was also carried out by video and hosted by Vietnam.
In a speech he gave at the US missile delivery ceremony in Manila, O’Brien cited the role of the Trump administration in the defeat of the Islamic State group in the Middle East and the assassination last year of its leader, Abu Bakr al -Baghdadi in Syria, as well as its renewed commitment to help defeat IS-linked militants in the southern Philippines.
He also expressed his hope that the key security arrangement that allows US forces to train in large-scale combat exercises in the Philippines will continue. Philippine President Duterte decided to repeal the Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States earlier this year, but then delayed the validity of his decision until next year, a move O’Brien welcomed.
“President Trump stands alongside President Duterte as we fight ISIS here in Southeast Asia,” O’Brien said. “This transfer underscores our strong and enduring commitment to our critical alliance.”
O’Brien also mentioned the United States’ stance regarding the Philippines’ effort to protect its sovereign rights in the South China Sea. The Philippines announced last month that it would resume oil and gas exploration at or near the Reed Bank, which is located within the country’s west coast but is also contested by China.
“They belong to the Philippine people,” O’Brien said. “They don’t belong to some other country that just because they may be bigger than the Philippines they can come take away and convert the resources of the Philippine people. That’s just wrong.”
He reiterated the statement of the United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, earlier this year, as a guarantee to the Philippine nation, that “any armed attack against Philippine forces aircraft or public vessels in the South China Sea will activate our mutual defense obligations.” The Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States and the Philippines is now 69 years old.