The Slovak Republic on Monday said it is eyeing defense cooperation with Manila that will enable them to provide training, firearms and other defense equipment to the Philippines.
Visiting Slovak Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak said his government can offer defense “expertise, technologies and devices” that can be of use to the Philippine military, which is in the process of modernizing its aging equipment and armaments.
“Defense is one of the areas where we could cooperate,” Lajcak said after a bilateral meeting with Philippine counterpart Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario. “Slovakia has its expertise and we have some technologies.”
The Philippines, whose military is perceived to be among the weakest in the region, is currently scrambling to acquire ships, planes, satellites and coastal defense equipment mainly from the United States and also from other countries amid renewed territorial conflict in the South China Sea.
Manila and Beijing are locked in a long-running territorial dispute in the resource-rich waters, a cluster of islands shoals, reefs, and coral outcrops, where Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan also have competing claims.
The Philippine government accused China of infringing on its territory, harassing its fishermen, constructing artificial islands and sabotaging oil exploration. China, which claims the sea nearly in its entirety, insisted that all it actions are legal and undertaken within the scope of its sovereignty.
“With regard to defense cooperation, we see a potential,” Lajcak said. “We are suggesting that our experts get together, experts from the Department of Defense to come to Slovakia to identify the possibilities.”
Apart from arms and ammunitions, Lajcak said Slovakia can provide the Philippines with what it needs from training, development of facilities to technology on de-mining.
Del Rosario welcomed the Slovak government’s offer, but said there are no specific talks yet on the acquisition of defense artillery from the European state, which has a flourishing defense industry.
“We do have our modernization program so that’s a possibility. We are also looking at the possibility of training,” Del Rosario said.
In their meeting, the two officials signed a joint plan of action – a partnership framework, which, Del Rosario said, would serve as a “roadmap on trade and investments, renewable energy, mutual consular concerns, cultural and educational exchanges, people to people ties and multilateral cooperation.”
“We had a very productive meeting where we welcomed new avenues of cooperation,” he said. “The revitalization of bilateral trade is a mutual priority between our two countries.”
Lajcak admitted that bilateral cooperation between the Philippines and Slovakia is underdeveloped, but stressed that “there is always a good potential in our relations.”
“Slovakia has many things to offer. We are small, but very dynamic country in the very heart of Europe,” he said. “I see potential in infrastructure, agriculture, and energy generation and transmission.”
Del Rosario and Lajcak also said they discussed major regional and international issues, including the South China Sea.
Both officials expressed the same view that the territorial disputes must be resolved peacefully in accordance to the rule of law – a position long held by the Philippines.