The US military on Wednesday renewed its commitment to the Philippines to fortify its bilateral and defense ties as it celebrated seven decades of the Joint US Military Assistance Group’s (Jusmag) security cooperation mission in the country.
The occasion, hosted by the US Ambassador to Manila Sung Kim, also highlighted the inaugural Major General Albert Jones Memorial Award, which was accorded to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana for his valuable support to the group throughout his military and diplomatic careers spanning four decades.
The award is given to a US or Philippine government official who has made significant contributions to the bilateral defense partnership.
Jones, the first chief of Jusmag-Philippines, was the only general officer on the infamous Bataan death march who endured two years of torture and starvation alongside other soldiers.
In a speech on Wednesday night, Jusmag chief Col. Ernest Lee said the group’s 70th year was a celebration of the “unbreakable bond” between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the United States.
“Relationships that last this long are very special. They are not relationship of convenience but based on mutual respect, common values and shared destiny,” said Lee.
The celebration showed how both countries continued to keep its relations warm despite earlier threats by President Duterte to diminish ties with American forces.
“This award is just reaffirming that good relationship. But with or without the award, our relationship is good,” Lorenzana told the Inquirer.
The Jusmag was created through the 1947 Military Assistance Agreement in the aftermath of World War II to advise and assist the AFP in training, equipment and organization. It helped the AFP modernize and build capabilities and interoperability that are mutually beneficial.
In his remarks, Kim encouraged both the Jusmag and the AFP to continue the legacy of selfless dedication and commitment in defending its freedom and promoting peace and stability.
“Jusmag-Philippines has carried on that tradition for the past 70 years and I am confident that it will continue to do so in the next 70 years and beyond,” he said.
In his acceptance speech, Lorenzana said the award spoke of the “highest standard and higher value” of alliance between the Philippines and the United States.
“I hope this award will inspire our efforts beyond the bounds of mutual defense and security engagements for the challenges that confront us today are far different from those that we had to deal with from the past decades and they continue to unravel in various ways with new technologies,” he said.