The Philippine military has received P183 million worth of weapons and equipment from the Joint US Military Assistance Group-Philippines (JUSMAG), the United States Embassy in the Philippines said.
The defense assistance came amid reports that more than 100 new vessels —likely Chinese—were detected this month in the West Philippine Sea.
According to US-based geospatial imagery and data analysis firm Simularity, the number of vessels rose from 129 to 238.
JUSMAG officials delivered the equipment Monday, which included nine M3P .50 caliber heavy machine guns and 10 mortar tubes, among others, at the Clark Air Base.
The announcement came as Manila's ambassador to Washington Jose Manuel Romualdez told a Malacañang briefing the United States government was pleased that President Rodrigo Duterte decided to postpone the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement, raising hopes the agreement would continue.
"Of course, we're very happy about that, as you know both countries have sat down and I wouldn't really call it a negotiation but clarifications of the terms of agreement which was completed," Romualdez said.
Duterte relayed his decision to suspend the termination last June 14 while he studies the issues and both sides address his concerns about some aspects of the security pact.
Hoping for its continuation, Romualdez underscored that the VFA had been one of the many aspects of the "very important" Philippine-US bilateral relations.
The US embassy said the delivery of the weapons and equipment sought to enhance the AFP’s counterterrorism and maritime security capabilities.
“The United States will continue to support the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ capacity-building efforts through joint training and key military equipment transfers,” JUSMAG chief Col. Stephen Ma said in a statement.
“Our mutual security collaboration remains a cornerstone of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he added.
The US had provided over P48.6 billion security assistance to the country since 2015, making the Philippines the largest recipient of US military assistance in the Indo-Pacific region.
Romualdez, for his part, said the VFA is a "mutually beneficial" treaty.
"The VFA I think has benefited our military of which [Defense] Secretary [Delfin] Lorenzana has confirmed on several occasions. We are hoping this will continue and of course, the US government, especially the US military establishment is very pleased with this development that the president has extended it for another six months."
"We're hoping that it will perhaps be better than it ever was in terms of the kind of agreement that we had with them and (that) it will be mutually beneficial for both our militaries," he added.