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Philippine High Court Approves Defense Accord With US

FILE - The USS Shiloh (CG-67) is docked at a port along Subic Bay, north of Manila, Philippines.

The Philippine Supreme Court has upheld a defense pact with the United States.

The administration of President Benigno Aquino signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with U.S. defense officials in 2014, which allows American forces to store equipment on the archipelago for use in national security, maritime and disaster response operations. Legal challenges were launched against the pact by groups opposed to any U.S. military presence on its former colony.

But Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te says the court voted 10-4 Tuesday that the agreement did not need congressional approval, because as an executive agreement it implements "existing laws and treaties."

The agreement was sought by Aquino, who is seeking to bolster the Philippines's military capabilities to counter China's increasingly aggressive territorial claims in the resource-rich South China Sea, ignoring similar claims by Manila, as well as Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei. The deal is also part of President Barack Obama's strategic "pivot" of U.S. focus back to the Asia-Pacific region.