Aquino thanks Obama for military support
President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday thanked the United States, a close ally of the Philippines, for its military support amid continued tension in the disputed areas of South China Sea.
“We recognize, with the deepest appreciation, the significant contribution to our efforts by the United States—contributions that help us ensure that we can ably respond to current security challenges, particularly in the area of maritime security and maritime domain awareness,” Aquino said during a joint press briefing with US President Barack Obama at Sofitel Philippine Plaza in Manila.
He said the National Coast Watch Center in Manila, which was completed this year, was constructed with “significant assistance” from the US. Earlier reports said the US government allocated $20 million for the center.
When it comes to disputes in the South China Sea, however, the two leaders agreed on the importance of adhering to international law and the peaceful resolution of disputes.
“I take this opportunity to reiterate the Philippines’ view that the freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea must be continuously upheld, consistent with international law,” he explained.
Aquino and Obama met at Sofitel Philippine Plaza in Manila on Wednesday morning for a bilateral meeting.
Among the topics discussed is the Philippine Strategic Trade Management Act (STMA), which prevents the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the Philippines and cybersecurity threats.
“This area of collaboration with the United States can impact positively on the capacity of the Philippine Government to effectively and swiftly respond to cybersecurity threats and challenges,” he said.
Obama on Tuesday visited the Philippine Navy’s flagship BRP Gregorio del Pilar.
It was during the said visit that Obama promised to hand over two ships—a US Coast Guard cutter and a research vessel—to help boost Philippine maritime security.
Reports said the US is scaling up assistance to naval forces in the region where there have been disputes due to overlapping claims in parts of South China Sea. China, specifically, has been criticized for constructing artificial islands in areas claimed by its neighboring countries.
Obama, quoted by Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., reportedly said during the meeting: “Our alliance with the Philippines is strong and will continue to be enhanced through joint exercises and by working with multilateral organizations.”
During the closed-door meeting, Aquino thanked the US for “affirming the country’s eligibility for a second compact with the Millennium Challenge Corp, thereby recognizing the administration’s policy reforms on good governance,” Coloma said. RAM