The Philippines is seeking joint patrol with the US in the South China Sea, in the wake of a territorial dispute with China.
The matter was discussed at a ‘2+2’ meeting attended by Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Philippines Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, and their US counterparts, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Defence Secretary Ashton Carter.
Department of National Defence spokesman Peter Paul Galvezwas quoted by Defence News as saying: "The 2+2 meeting extensively discussed the South China Sea issue; with the US side reiterating the US ironclad commitment to the defence of the Philippines, while the Philippines batting for joint patrols.
"The US also conveyed that it remains committed to the Armed Forces of the Philippines modernisation programme."
The US undertook military operations in the South China Sea last year, amidst protests from China. It deployed two B-52 bombers that flew close to Chinese artificially built islands.
China has been developing artificial islands in the sea, for which it is under a long-standing dispute with the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
The Philippine defence department said: "The US side emphasised that it will not allow China to control the South China Sea, and will act to ensure that freedom of navigation is respected."
Last week, the Philippines Supreme Court has cleared an Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US, allowing for increased presence of the latter in the region.
Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te was quoted by Reuters as saying: "It remains consistent with existing laws and treaties that it purports to implement."
The deal is being opposed by China as it fears escalated regional tensions, undermining peace and stability in the region.
Image: Sailors aboard Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur participating in a gunnery exercise in the South China Sea earlier this month. US Navy photo by Lt.j.g. Jonathan Peterson.