MANILA – European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday the European Union was ready to strengthen cooperation with the Philippines on maritime security.

She was speaking after a meeting with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in Manila.

“We are ready to strengthen the cooperation with the Philippines on maritime security in the region by sharing information, conducting threat assessment and building the capacity of your coast guard,” she said in a joint statement with Marcos.

The Philippines is a fulcrum of the geopolitical rivalry between the United States and China, with its maritime territory encompassing part of the South China Sea, a strategic and resource-rich waterway over which China also claims sovereignty.

The leaders also discussed relaunching negotiations for a free trade agreement and the Southeast Asian country’s energy transition. — Reuters