The Philippines has asked the United States to hold joint naval patrols, a defense ministry spokesman said on Thursday, amid a territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea.

Foreign and defense ministers from the United States and the Philippines met in Washington this week for the second time in more than three years to discuss trade and security, focusing on the South China Sea.

“We are suggesting that we also patrol the area together,” Peter Paul Galvez told reporters in Manila. “There is a need for more collaborative presence in the South China Sea.”

US offered 7 bases

The Philippines has offered the United States eight bases where it can build facilities to store equipment and supplies under a new security deal, a military spokesman said on Wednesday, amid rising tension with China over the South China Sea.

EDCA, which was signed by the Philippines and the US on April 28, 2014, allows American troops to pre-position defense assets in Philippine bases
EDC agreement allows American troops to pre-position defense assets in Philippine bases

Last year, the Philippines and United States signed the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) granting Washington increased military presence in its former colony, rotating ships and planes for humanitarian and maritime security operations.

“The list has been prepared many months ago when we had earlier discussions,” Colonel Restituto Padilla told reporters, saying five military airfields, two naval bases and a jungle training camp were offered to the United States.

“These are still subject for approval and we’re going to hold final discussions about these areas.”

Three of these bases are on the main island of Luzon in the northern Philippines, including Clark airfield, a former U.S. air force base, and two are on the western island of Palawan, near the South China Sea.

On Tuesday, the Philippines Supreme Court declared the security deal with the US constitutional as dozens of anti-U.S. activists held protests outside the court denouncing it saying it would make the Philippines “a launching pad for military intervention in the region.”

The court voted 10-4 to deny a petition of some lawmakers and activists to declare the EDCA unconstitutional because it surrendered Philippine sovereignty to a foreign power.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called it a “very important decision” as he and U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter began talks with their Philippine counterparts on security and economic issues, including tensions in the South China Sea and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

China’s official Xinhua news agency, in an English-language commentary, said the EDCA would only escalate tension and “could push the situation to the brink of war”.

“The deal is groundless because China, which sticks to a defensive defense policy, has never coerced any country on the South China Sea issue,” it said.

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