Obama meets with PNoy, vows to enhance defense alliance
Louis Bacani (philstar.com) - November 17, 2015 - 7:17pm

MANILA, Philippines  President Benigno Aquino III and United States President Barack Obama held a bilateral meeting on Wednesday at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

During their meeting in Sofitel, Obama assured that the US will strengthen its defense ties with the Philippines.

According to Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., Obama said "Our alliance with the Philippines is strong and will continue to be enhanced through joint exercises and by working with multilateral organizations."

"He emphasized US' strong advocacy on freedom of navigation and freedom of aviation," Coloma said in a note to Malacañang reporters.

Aquino, meanwhile, thanked Obama for giving foreign military financial assistance and for supporting the construction of Manila's National Coast Watch Center.

Coloma said Aquino also welcomed the proposed Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative and the assistance to help improve the maritime security capabilities of the Philippines.

The Philippines and the US are improving their alliance amid the continuing South China Sea dispute.

After his arrival in Manila on Tuesday, Obama toured the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, a naval vessel donated by the US to the Philippines.

Obama said he will hand over two more ships to the Philippine Navy to boost its maritime security capabilities, in a bid to show the US and its allies won't be cowed by China in disputed waters far off its coast.

Obama said the pair of ships — one U.S. Coast Guard cutter, one research vessel — were part of a broader American plan to scale up assistance to naval forces in Southeast Asia, where coastal nations feel threatened by China's aggressive moves to assert control over the South China Sea. 

"More capable navies, in partnership with the United States, are critical to the security of this region," Obama said.

He said the ships would help the Philippines navigate and patrol its territorial waters.

"You can count on the United States," the president said.  with the Associated Press

AQUINO ASIA-PACIFIC ECONOMIC COOPERATION ASSOCIATED PRESS COAST GUARD COLOMA COMMUNICATIONS SECRETARY HERMINIO COLOMA JR. NATIONAL COAST WATCH CENTER OBAMA QUOT SOUTH CHINA SEA UNITED STATES
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