DFA: Talks on joint patrols with US in West PH Sea seen to continue

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Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo virtually meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Aug. 6, 2022.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 6) - Manila's top diplomat said talks on holding joint patrols with the United States in the West Philippine Sea may again be pursued after being halted by the previous administration.

Foreign Affairs chief Enrique Manalo on Saturday said this joint activity is possible as it falls within the ambit of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the Philippines and the US.

"[It is] also within the context of the Mutual Defense Board and Security Engagement board. So, I think this is an issue that will be continued to be explored bilaterally," he told a press conference after a virtual meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

In 2016, the Philippines—under the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte—put plans for joint patrols in the disputed sea on hold. This was at a time Duterte publicly moved away from the US while voicing intention to forge warmer ties with China.

According to Manalo, defense and security engagements between Manila and Washington "continue to be a pillar" of bilateral relations.

The US, for its part, reiterated its "ironclad commitment" to the MDT, with Blinken reaffirming that any armed attack on the Philippines' armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the West Philippine Sea would invoke Washington's commitments as an ally under the 70-year-old deal.

Manalo, who announced testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this week, met with Blinken virtually. Earlier in the day, the US official also met with President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr. in Malacañang.

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