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MANILA, Philippines - U.S. 7th Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Bill Merz arrived in the Philippines on June 10 to engage with counterparts within the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for a scheduled two-day visit.
During his visit, Merz met with the Chief of Staff of the AFP, General Cirilito Sobejana, and Philippine Navy Flag Officer-in-Command, Rear Adm. Adeluis Bordado, to discuss the importance of the two countries’ broad bilateral relationship in the Indo-Pacific region.
“Our relationship with the Philippines is vitally important in the Indo-Pacific region,” said Merz. “The strong relationship and integration between our countries reflects our shared values, principles and commitment to maritime security.”
Adm. Merz engaged with AFP counterparts to discuss topics of mutual interest and reaffirm the steadfast and enduring U.S.-Philippine alliance. The discussion focused on maritime domain awareness support and information sharing, free and open maritime access throughout the South China Sea, Western Pacific operations, and maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft (MPRA) presence in the region.
“We appreciate the US’ affirmation of the Philippines-United States Alliance and support to Southeast Asian nations’ maritime claims in the South China Sea in accordance with international law,” said Gen. Sobejana. “The AFP and the U.S. Armed Forces’ cooperation and partnership will continue to thrive while we mutually find ways to step up our initiatives in addressing current security concerns. We shall keep developing visionary bilateral action plans in addressing potential future security concerns to maintain regional peace.”
Gen. Sobejana also took the opportunity to express the organization’s gratitude to the United States’ for providing assistance to the Philippines’ vaccination program.
“The AFP is grateful to the United States’ commitment to working closely with the Philippine government throughout the pandemic to protect public health. The arrival of AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines greatly augments the government’s efforts to ensure our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” General Sobejana said.
The United States and the Philippines continue to strengthen bilateral ties through key leadership visits and engagements.
Under Commander, U. S. Pacific Fleet, 7th Fleet is the U.S. Navy's largest forward-deployed numbered fleet, and routinely interacts and operates with 35 maritime nations in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region.