An increased presence of US troops in the Philippines is expected to prevent China from intruding into territories in the West Philippine Sea, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Friday.

“Kung mayroon tayong good neighbor on the block, hindi siya (intruding country) masyadong makakapasok, hindi tayo masyadong naaapi,” Gazmin told reporters.

“Magkakaroon ng stability pagka mayroon tayong enough deterrent. Kasi kung walang deterrent, kayang-kaya tayong itulak-tulak, i-violate ang ating mga territories,” he said.

“I would rather look at it from the positive point of view,” Gazmin said when asked if the prescence of more US troops would cause more tension with China.

The defense chief made the remarks a day after confirming reports that Washington plans to increase its presence in the Asia-Pacific amid China’s growing assertiveness.

The statements are percieved as favoring the plan, which may see US troops conducting more exercises in the Philippines or sending soldiers and military assets like ships and planes on a rotational basis.

“Baka nga wala nang intrusion pagka mayroon tayong mga barkong nagpa-ply dito sa area natin,” Gazmin said.

Three officials of the Department of National Defense are now in Washington to discuss the possible increase in military trainings and assistance that the US may give to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Undersecretary for Legal and Legislative Affairs and Strategic Concerns Pio Lorenzo Batino, Asec. for Strategic Assessment Raymund Jose Quilop, at Asec. for Plans and Programs Danilo Augusto Francia may hold talks with their US counterparts over the weekend. (John Roson)

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