US Secretary of State John Kerry gestures as he speaks during a joint press conference at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Pasay City, south of Manila, Philippines, 27 July 2016.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday reaffirmed the two countries’ defence alliance amid ongoing tension in the South China Sea.

The US committed 32 million dollars in aid to the Philippines for training and services, presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said.

Kerry, who arrived in Manila on Tuesday evening, said earlier his visit was intended to underscore “the value that the United States places on the alliance and the true friendship and relationship that we have with the people of this country.”

In an earlier meeting with Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay, Kerry stressed the need for claimants of disputed areas of the South China Sea to avoid confrontation.

Kerry said the July 12 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China should “lead to mutually acceptable solutions.”

“We have made clear that the decision of the arbitral tribunal convened under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is legally binding and that we expect that the parties would comply with their obligations under the law,” he said.

“But we are not trying to create a confrontation. We are trying to create a solution, mindful of the rights of people that are established under the law,” he added.

Kerry dismissed fears that the ruling would become irrelevant with China refusing to recognize it.

“It’s impossible for it to be irrelevant,” he said. “It’s legally binding and it’s obviously a decision of the court that is recognized under international law and it has to be part of the calculation.”

Duterte told Kerry that his administration was prepared to negotiate with China to resolve the dispute, but “whatever talks that we will engage in will begin with the ruling (as the) foundation.”

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that China has no legal rights to claim a large swathe of the South China Sea, in a case brought by the Philippines.

Apart from China and the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam also have overlapping claims to the South China Sea, which is a key shipping lane and rich in mineral and marine resources.

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