MANILA- The Philippines and the United States reaffirmed on Tuesday their commitment to uphold the lawful use of the disputed South China Sea as Washington reiterated its support for Manila.
Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and his US counterpart Mark Esper emphasized during a meeting in Manila on Tuesday the need to uphold freedom of navigation and overflight in the resource-rich waters, which China claims in near entirety.
“The United States and the Philippines reiterated their commitment to uphold freedom of navigation, overflight, other lawful uses of the sea in the South China Sea, and stressed the importance of peacefully resolving disputes in accordance with international law, as reflected in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” the defense ministers said in a joint statement.
The 2 officials also reiterated the applicability of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and US on the entire Pacific region, including South China Sea.
The defense pact binds both countries to aid each other in the event of foreign aggression.
Manila, for its part, said it would help ensure that the lawful use of the South China Sea is included in the Code of Conduct being negotiated by claimant Southeast Asian countries with China.
The Philippines and US also pledged to improve their bilateral ties particularly in the areas of defense, and mutual security, the joint statement said.
“The United States and the Philippines will build upon the existing foundation by continuing to improve information sharing and enhancing cooperation to prevent terrorist attacks and the transit of foreign terrorist fighters in and through the Philippines.”