Philippines seeks 'real-time' US help in disputed South China Sea

Filipino President Benigno Aquino (centre) and Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario (right) greeting Commander of the US Pacific Command Harry B. Harris Jr at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila on Aug 26, 2015.
Filipino President Benigno Aquino (centre) and Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario (right) greeting Commander of the US Pacific Command Harry B. Harris Jr at the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila on Aug 26, 2015.PHOTO: EPA

MANILA (REUTERS) - The Philippines has sought help from the United States to monitor "real-time" developments in the South China Sea, providing surveillance and reconnaissance, a military spokesman said on Thursday, amid China's rapid expansion in the area.

Colonel Restituto Padilla said the defence ministry had asked US Pacific Command chief, Admiral Harry Harris, to provide air cover to a Philippine civilian ship that regularly delivers supplies to Second Thomas Shoal in the disputed waters.

"We want the US military to watch over our ships, which China attempts to block every time we rotate troops and bring supplies to a ship that ran aground on Ayungin shoal," Padilla said.

Harris was in Palawan on Thursday to see first-hand the situation in the area near where China has built artificial islands.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which US$5 trillion (S$7 trillion) in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have overlapping claims.

Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, commander of military forces in Palawan, told journalists the US commander promised to help its oldest ally in the Asia-Pacific, but would also prevent conflict from erupting.