|US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Benigno Aquino take center stage at a lunch she hosted for the Philippine leader in Washington, D.C. on Friday.
MANILA, Philippines - The United States will help build a new National Coast Watch Center in the Philippines amid Manila's ongoing dispute with Beijing over ownership of Scarborough Shoal, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday (early Saturday morning in Manila).
Clinton made the announcement in a lunch she hosted at the US Department of State's Benjamin Franklin Dining Room for Philippine President Benigno Aquino, who is in Washington, D.C. in an official state visit.
She mentioned the Mutual Defense Treaty between the United States and the Philippines, adding that American military special forces have been working side by side with their Filipino counterparts.
"We are also working closely together to increase information and intelligence exchanges and coordination on maritime domain issues," she said.
"And in this context, I'm pleased to announce today that the United States will support the construction, outfitting, and training of a new National Coast Watch Center in the Philippines," she added.
Clinton said that as allies, Washington and Manila consult on on important regional issues and cited the South China Sea issue.
She said that while the US does not take a position on the competing territorial claims in the region, it has "a clear interest in the maintenance of peace and stability, freedom of navigation, respect for international law, and unimpeded lawful commerce in the South China Sea."
Clinton praised the Aquino government's initial steps to defuse tensions surrounding Scarborough shoal.
"We encourage continued diplomatic dialogue and further efforts to lessen tension, to disengage, and to resolve the situation peacefully," she said. "The United States has been consistent in that we oppose the use of force or coercion by any claimant to advance its claims, and we will continue to monitor the situation closely."
She also urged China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to reach consensus on a code of conduct for the South China Sea.
Clinton, during her speech, also announced the signing of a new agreement with Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario.
She said the agreement will spur joint US-Philippine efforts on science and technology.
"When our scientists share their ideas and their resources, not only do our two countries but the world reaps the benefits," she said.
Clinton also said the US will also increase the number of its Peace Corps volunteers in the Philippines.
"President Aquino first came to the United States over 30 years ago to seek asylum with his family as political turmoil ravaged his country. Today, I welcome him here to reaffirm our shared future based on mutual respect and interests, our common democratic values, new partnerships, and the bonds between our peoples," Clinton said.
Aquino, meanwhile, hailed the partnership between the two nations.
"We are clearly at a new juncture in our relations while we both remained grounded in our history and in the democratic principles and values we both hold, our success is also about what we can do together: to build a more stable region and to achieve an even more prosperous future for both our peoples," he said.
"That we are here now signifies our desire to further accelerate the achievement of these goals. I see a very rewarding future ahead of us as we worked on the different elements that comprise our partnership, such as our ties in defense and security, in our economies and amongst our peoples," Aquino added. - with reports from Nadia Trinidad, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau; Reuters