US planes spied on China in sea row
THE Philippines said yesterday that United States spy planes were providing crucial intelligence on Chinese military activities in disputed areas of the South China Sea.
US Navy P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft frequently fly over areas that the Philippines says are within its legal territory but where China has deployed military vessels, said Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario.
"I think it's of significant importance for us," Mr del Rosario told reporters, when asked about the value of the information gathered by the spy planes.
"We do have an interest in terms of what is going on in our exclusive economic zone, within our continental shelf, and we want to know if there are any intrusions."
China claims nearly all of the sea, even waters close to the Philippines and other neighbours.
The Philippines has repeatedly called on the US, its former colonial master and close military ally, for help in resisting China.
While the US insists it will not take sides in the South China Sea dispute, it has helped to upgrade the Philippines' military capabilities.
When asked if the spy-plane surveillance on China may jar with the US' insistence of neutrality in the maritime dispute, Mr del Rosario emphasised the close US-Philippine ties.
He pointed out that the allies have a mutual-defence treaty, which calls on each party to help the other in times of external aggression.
When asked how long the spy planes have been flying over the waters of the South China Sea, Mr del Rosario said at least from the time he became foreign secretary in 2010, adding that the spy planes operated mostly, but not exclusively, during joint military exercises between the Philippines and the US.