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Obama: US has 'rock solid' commitment to defend Philippines

US President Barack Obama speaks to reporters after touring the BRP Gregorio del Pilar in Manila, Philippines, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015. AP

MANILA, Philippines - United States President Barack Obama assured on Wednesday that his nation is committed to defend its longtime ally the Philippines.

After a bilateral meeting with President Benigno Aquino III, Obama said the US will help the Philippines because of their longstanding Mutual Defense Treaty and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

"The broader point is that, as a treaty ally, we have a rock solid commitment to the defense of the Philippines," Obama said in a joint press conference with Aquino in Sofitel.

"And part of our goal is to continue to help our treaty partners build up capacity, to make sure that the architecture of both defense work, but also humanitarian work, and other important activities in the region are coordinated more effectively, and we think that the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement is going to help us do that," he added.

Obama said he is confident that the EDCA, which was signed during his state visit to Manila in May 2014, will pass the Supreme Court's scrutiny.

For his part, Aquino said the EDCA, which allows greater US military presence in the Philippines, will strengthen Manila's defense capabilities.

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Aquino said the defense pact will also help in the Asian pivot of the US and in the improvement of regional stability.

"In the Philippines' part, we will have access to the most modern technology that will bring us into higher capabilities, and that is why we welcome now with very open arms this agreement pending before our Supreme Court," Aquino said.

"America gets the use of our bases to be able to have more stability in its ability to project its own power within the region in an effort to help in the stability and the orderliness and the diffusion of the tension with the region," he added.

Obama renewed the US' commitment to defend the Philippines amid the ongoing South China Sea dispute.

He said the US supports the arbitration case filed by the Philippines that sought to invalidate China's nine-dash line claim.

"We fully support a process in which through international law and international norms these issues are resolved. And we look forward to working with all parties to move disputes through these channels," Obama said.

The South China Sea dispute was among the issues discussed by Aquino and Obama during their meeting.

"President Obama and I likewise had a discussion on maritime security, including on the maritime disputes in the region, and how international law should remain the framework for behavior of all countries and for the peaceful resolution of disputes," Aquino said.

He said the two nations reaffirmed their defense alliance which "remains a cornerstone of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific."

"President Obama and I reiterated the longstanding and multi-layered engagement between our two peoples, and we pledged to ensure that our two countries work together not only strengthen defense cooperation and increase mutual prosperity, but also to foster more meaningful ties between our people," Aquino said.

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