Philippines asks for US presence in S. China Sea

MANILA • The Philippines has asked the United States to hold joint naval patrols in the South China Sea, amid a territorial dispute with China.

"We are suggesting that we also patrol the area together," Philippine Defence Ministry spokesman Peter Paul Galvez told reporters in Manila. "There is a need for a more collaborative presence in the South China Sea."

The Philippines made the request at the annual conference of the Surface Navy Association near Washington this week, where foreign and defence ministers from the two countries held talks on trade and security, focusing on the South China Sea. The Philippine Defence Department said in a statement that the meeting had concluded "with the US side reiterating the US ironclad commitment to the defence of the Philippines."

US Navy Secretary Ray Mabus underscored the importance of the US-Philippine relationship, but declined to comment on the Philippine request for joint patrols.

A Philippine military spokesman said on Wednesday that Manila had offered the US eight bases where it can build facilities to store equipment and supplies under a new security deal.

Mr Mabus said the accord paves the way for even closer ties, although the next steps were still being discussed. "They're a very, very important international partner, and they're in a very important part of the world," Mr Mabus said.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 16, 2016, with the headline 'Philippines asks for US presence in S. China Sea'. Print Edition | Subscribe