The United States has recently pledged to strengthen the nature of it’s military relationship with the Philippines in order to increase the country’s “minimum credible defense posture.” This move is in support of the Philippines territorial claims to what they know as the West Philippine Sea, but China has aggressively claimed as their own– deeming it the South China Sea.
The United States will also offer military support to cultivate two other areas– disaster preparedness and maritime security. Southeast Asia has seen a recent spate of natural disasters, and the governments of the region have, in some cases, struggled with their response. Additionally, the region has seen a resurgence in piracy in recent years.
While the U.S. plans to send some naval troops and defense equipment, the relationship will mostly focus on exchanges of soft-knowledge: the troops will conduct extensive maritime training and exercises with their Philippine allies.
The move comes as a counter to China’s recent regional aggression– the aspiring global power has ignited territorial disputes all over the region, clashing diplomatically with Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines. While the militaries remain formally on the sidelines several reports of sporadic skirmishes in the West Philippine Sea have surfaced.
Overall, there are very few specifics about the agreement; it has been reached in principle only. The decision was made at a policy-only meeting, so many of the details have yet to be established, including troop numbers that Washington plans to send. A spokesman has commented that the real increase will come on the activities front, meaning a significant increasing in training and exercises, but not necessarily a large increase in the troops stationed in the country.
The most concrete action to come from this meeting was to formulate policies within the framework of the Philippine constitution that work to bolster maritime security. Namely, the countries hope that the establishment of a National Coast Watch Center becomes the backbone of a robust maritime security apparatus for the Philippines.