News / Asia

Philippines Host Meetings with US Officials to Discuss Defense

Simone Orendain
As tensions continue to simmer between the Philippines and China over competing claims in the South China Sea, the Philippines is cleaving more closely to its Mutual Defense Treaty partner, the United States.  Manila hosted several meetings this week with U.S. officials to discuss defense, maritime rule of law and strengthening other ties. 

The Philippines has been more vocal in the past year about having a stronger stance against what it sees as aggressive territorial claims by China.  At the same time the United States has been making a policy shift toward Asia and the Pacific.

As part of the change in focus, the Philippines is welcoming more frequent visits from U.S. military ships.  

Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta says the increased U.S. presence will help put the Philippines in a better position to assert its claims in the sea. “We think it’s going to make it clear that the United States is engaged in the region and that sends the right signal that states must behave in a reasonable way, in a lawful way,” he said.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei all have territorial claims in the South China Sea, while China says about 90-percent of the sea is Chinese, based on ancient maps.  China has consistently said the disputes are between itself and each individual claimant country, not any outside party, especially not the United States.  

In recent years, the Philippines and Vietnam each have had disputes with China over rock formations in an area of the South China Sea that is widely travelled, has abundant sea life and is potentially rich in fossil fuels.  

The Philippines has been viewed as pushing for U.S. support in its territorial squabble.

The chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel Locklear, in Manila for a Mutual Defense board meeting Thursday, reiterated the U.S.’s neutral position on the territorial disputes and again called for the parties’ peaceful management of the issue.

“The Philippine armed forces understand the U.S. position on that and we understand the issues surrounding it as it impacts security of the Philippines as well. So we have good open dialogue and good open communication,” Locklear stated.

China has significantly increased its defense budget in the past decade and is building up its military.  The increased U.S. presence in the Pacific is widely seen as a counter to this, especially for countries like the Philippines with a weak military, lacking in resources.

Ian Storey of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore says the increased visits to the Philippines by U.S. ships and officials are a way for Washington “to flex its muscles [in the Asia Pacific] to show it is not going away.”  “The U.S. will presumably continue its capacity-building support for the Philippines… the Philippines is the weakest link in all this,” he said.

Admiral Locklear says the capacity-building will have a stronger emphasis on humanitarian and disaster recovery (HADR) exercises that will also have other benefits.

“Improve your inter-operability.  Improve your information-sharing.  Improve your intelligence.  Improve your common and shared values and goals.  And all of those add value not only in HADR, but add value to any contingency that you might perceive down the road,” Locklear explained.

Carl Baker is program director of the Pacific Forum of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.  He says muscle-flexing aside, it would not be productive for the U.S., with its struggling economy, to be involved in any confrontation in the region.  Instead, he says it is in the interest of U.S. national security to have more economic involvement.

“To engage in a broad way in Asia and not narrowly be seen as a security guarantor.  That it sees a need to engage economically simply to help out the U.S. economy because as you know, economies in Southeast Asia are actually quite vibrant,” said Baker.

But the Philippines is looking beyond the U.S. for support.  This week, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario told the Financial Times newspaper the Philippines would welcome a move by Japan to drop its pacifist military policy, saying this would make it “a significant balancing factor" in the region.  The Philippines also has pending deals with Italy and Japan to add boats to its Coast Guard fleet.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs