[Ed. – Seems a tad optimistic on Manila’s part. Unfortunately, if Obama buys into it, it could also expose U.S. forces to brinkmanship with China in a very disadvantageous area. We’ve occasionally provided an air presence to support the Philippines in this mission, but more than that would be very unwise, in such a tactically unbalanced situation. Be afraid.]
The Philippine defense chief said he asked the visiting U.S. Pacific commander on Wednesday to help protect the transport of Filipino troops and supplies to Philippine-occupied reefs in the disputed South China Sea by deploying American patrol planes to discourage Chinese moves to block the resupply missions.
The Philippines has protested past attempts by Chinese coast guard ships to block smaller boats transporting military personnel, food and other supplies to a Filipino military ship outpost at disputed Second Thomas Shoal, which is also claimed and guarded by Chinese coast guard ships. The tense standoff at the shoal has lasted two years.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the commander, Adm. Harry Harris Jr., assured him of U.S. readiness to provide assistance, adding that the U.S. military has flown an aircraft at least once when a Philippine boat delivered supplies last year to Filipino marines marooned on the rusty naval ship that ran aground years ago at the disputed shoal.
AP journalists witnessing a resupply mission last year saw a U.S. military plane hovering above a Filipino supply boat, which a Chinese coast guard ship tried but failed to block.