US-Philippines ties
The US ambassador to the Philippines, Sung Kim (R), and the Philippines ambassador to the US, Jose Manuel Romualdez, stand up at the end of a joint press conference following the conclusion of "8th Bilateral and Strategic Dialogue" at a hotel in Manila on July 16, 2019.
AFP/Ted Aljibe
US, Philippines agree to enhance defense cooperation, maintain regional security
Ian Nicolas Cigaral ( - July 17, 2019 - 3:51pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines and United States agreed Tuesday to beef up their defense cooperation and begin planning on a range of activities to improve maritime domain awareness.

In a joint statement released after a high-level bilateral meeting, both sides said they recognized the importance of a “strong” Philippines-U.S. alliance in enhancing security cooperation and promoting regional stability and prosperity. 

Manila and Washington also recalled Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s clarification that the US' treaty obligation to the Philippines covers Manila-occupied reefs and Filipino vessels in the South China Sea, parts of which is the West Philippine Sea where China has been aggressively staking its claim.

“The Philippines and the United States pledged to enhance already robust defense cooperation, including by improving defense infrastructure, updating personnel and logistics procedures, and increasing mutual communication and coordination on operational elements of regional security,” read the communiqué.

Ties between China and the Philippines soured after the previous Aquino administration filed a case in 2013 with a United Nations-backed tribunal. The ruling, which favors Manila, was handed down a few days after Duterte assumed the presidency.

But China vehemently rejected the landmark decision, which Duterte put on the back burner in exchange for warmer ties and Chinese funding for his administration’s ambitious infrastructure program.

Although it is not a party to the maritime row, Washington has been infuriating China for repeatedly sending warships close to Chinese-controlled reefs.

In the same joint statement, the US and the Philippines said they reaffirmed their commitment to uphold freedom of navigation, overflight, and other lawful uses of the South China Sea.

“Both sides also emphasized the importance of concluding an effective and substantive Code of Conduct that would not prejudice the rights under international law of both claimant states and non-claimant states in the SCS,” they said.

Aside from agreeing to improve defense cooperation, Manila and Washington also said they reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen their economic ties, and emphasized the importance of the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms. 

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