MANILA - The Philippines must take the lead in protecting the West Philippine Sea from China and the US will support it, the country's ambassador to Washington said Monday.
The Philippine Coast Guard and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources over the weekend conducted maritime drills in the country's exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea. Beijing is expected to deploy its amphibious assault ship to the disputed waters.
"The Philippines [has] to take the lead. Any moves that are being made will have to come from the Philippines and the US will support it, for instance the joint patrolling of the area," Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez told ANC's Headstart.
"If anything were to happen to the Philippines, the United States is also very much obligated and they have clearly stated that they will but it will take the Philippines to take the lead. In other words they will not make any move unless the Philippines says so."
The United States has several times said it would uphold its Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines and support Southeast Asian countries resisting Beijing's pressure in the South China Sea.
The Philippines on Friday filed two new diplomatic protests against China over its illegal and lingering presence in Philippine waters, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.
It had vowed to continuously file diplomatic actions until Beijing's ships leave the country's EEZ, which is believed to hold valuable gas and oil deposits.
China's sweeping claims over almost the entire South China Sea has been adjudged to have no legal basis by a UN-backed arbitration court in The Hague last 2016.