(Bloomberg) -- The US and the Philippines’ top diplomats discussed “important opportunities” to further strengthen their longstanding alliance next year, the Southeast Asian nation’s Department of Foreign Affairs said Thursday.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Philippine counterpart Enrique Manalo tackled their nations’ “robust” alliance during a phone conversation Thursday Manila time, the agency said in a statement. 

The officials tackled ongoing South China Sea tensions, the US State Department said in an earlier statement, adding that Blinken underscored during the call the US’ “ironclad commitments” to its defense treaty with the Philippines.

Why China, Philippines Keep Clashing at Sea and What Comes Next

The top diplomats’ call took place a week after China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi also spoke to Manalo over the phone and warned of “serious difficulties” in the relationship between Beijing and Manila. Tensions between China and the Philippines have escalated, with their vessels clashing in the South China Sea several times in recent months.

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.