US to maintain presence in West Philippine Sea

By , on January 14, 2016

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MANILA—The US committed to maintain its presence in the West Philippine Sea and vowed to ensure freedom of navigation in the disputed waters.

In a statement, Defense Spokesperson Peter Paul Galvez said the US stressed during the Philippine-US 2+2 ministerial meeting last Jan. 12 that it will continue to fly and sail whenever and wherever international law allows.

He said the US presence in the disputed waters would include naval, sub-sea, air and special forces.

“The 2+2 meeting extensively discussed the South China Sea issue, with the US side reiterating the US ironclad commitment to the defense of the Philippines while the Philippines batting for joint patrols. The US also conveyed that it remains committed to the AFP’s (Armed Forces of the Philippines) modernization program,” he said.

The US also urged the Philippines to stay closely coordinated with the developments in the West Philippine Sea.

“Noting China’s claim that it will not militarize the area, the US suggested the need for parties in the South China Sea to have a common and shared understanding of the term ‘militarization’ to avoid growing tensions. A common sense among the other parties would put pressure on China,” he added.

Galvez said both the US and the Philippines agreed that maritime security and maritime domain awareness have to rise high on the agenda in PH-US strategic engagement, of which the Maritime Security Initiative is a good project.

Both sides also acknowledged the usefulness of multilateral cooperation in addressing security challenges and agreed to explore the possibility of the participation of other partners such as Japan and Australia in Philippine-US exercises and activities.

The Philippine side stressed that the involvement of other parties in these activities shall be in accordance with the Philippines’ national legal framework. (PNA)