The USS Lassen has entered the 12-nautical-mile limit of Chinese controlled islands in the South China Sea. Photo: Reuters

During the “two plus two” meeting between defense and foreign affairs officials of the Philippines and their US counterparts in Washington on Tuesday, DND spokesman Dr. Peter Paul Galvez said that the United States will maintain its presence in the South China Sea through its air and naval patrols to ensure that freedom of navigation is implemented in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).

The West Philippine Sea issue was “extensively” discussed in the meeting, in which the US reiterated its “ironclad” commitment to the Philippines.

“The US emphasized that it will not allow China to control the South China Sea….It committed to maintain presence in the South China Sea to include naval, sub-sea, air and special forces,” Galvez said.

The Philippines and the US both agreed that maritime security and maritime domain awareness have to rise high on the agenda in PH-US strategic engagement.

Meanwhile, the US also brings up its commitment to the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

After the meeting, it was mentioned in a joint statement of the two countries that the Philippines will get its third high-endurance cutter and research vessel this year.

The vessels were promised by US President Barrack Obama during his Philippine visit last November.

The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that was hailed constitutional by the Philippines’ Supreme Court will allow more US troops to be stationed in the Philippines and their equipment to be stored in military bases across the country. -John Esconde