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US 7th fleet backs alliance with Philippines
Publication Date : 20-03-2014
The chief of the United States Navy’s Seventh Fleet has reaffirmed the alliance between the United States and the Philippines amid negotiations between the two countries on an agreement that will allow greater US military presence in the country.
Reiterating the US commitment to protecting freedom of navigation and international law in the Asia-Pacific, Vice Admiral Robert Thomas Jr., Commander of the US Seventh Fleet, cited on Tuesday the increasing collaboration between the US Seventh Fleet and the “growing” Philippine Navy in efforts “to ensure security and stability in the region.”
“Today we look ahead in working with the Philippine Navy to ensure security and stability in the region. As strong as our relationship already is, we’re always looking for opportunities for an enhanced rotational presence of US forces to improve the training and capability both of our militaries, especially both of our navies,” Thomas said in a press conference aboard the USS Blue Ridge.
The USS Blue Ridge, the command ship of the Seventh Fleet forward-deployed in Yokosuka, Japan, arrived at the Manila South Harbor on Tuesday for a four-day port visit following a stop in Hong Kong.
Thomas said ships from the Seventh Fleet “will be visiting here regularly for a long time in the future,” with the known US defence rebalance to the Asia-Pacific.
He said the Seventh Fleet would continue to enhance its relationship with the Philippine Navy through joint exercises in maritime security, communications, disaster response and humanitarian assistance, among others.
“The interoperability between the US Navy and the Philippine Navy, we’re working hard on that. The Philippine Navy is growing in capacity and capability, and we are supporting that as the Philippine Navy develops in that regard. I’m very encouraged,” said Thomas.
He cited the 62-year defence alliance with the Philippines, saying: “The PH remains key in our efforts to ensure the stability and prosperity of the Western Pacific.”
Thomas said he had an “encouraging” phone conversation with Philippine Navy chief Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano on Monday night, adding that “we continue to learn from each other.”
Asked about recent incidents in the disputed South China Sea, part of his fleet’s area of responsibility, Thomas deferred to policy makers in Washington but reiterated the long-standing US position that peaceful dialogue should be the way to go towards a resolution.
“Our position is that we want them to be settled peacefully, we want them to be settled without coercion, we want that dialogue between parties that perhaps are in a territorial dispute,” Thomas told reporters.
“We insist on international waters being the international commons, and that we all navigate according to rules, standards, laws and international norms, and with that, that all those nations, literally take care of each other on the high seas,” he said.