The United States and the Philippines have agreed to deepen their countries' cooperation on defence and security.
Newly-installed US Secretary of State John Kerry has also expressed his country's support to take a territorial row between the Philippines and China to the United Nations.
The backing is the most high-profile support the Philippines has received since challenging China's territorial claims at a United Nations tribunal.
The US Government has previously said it would not take sides in the rift over disputed islands in the South China Sea.
In a phone conversation, Mr Kerry and the Philippines Foreign Minister have both agreed to deepen their countries' cooperation on defence and security.
This would include enhancing military exercises and helping build the Philippines' capacity to defend its territory.
The Philippines admits to having a a poorly equipped military, with mostly ageing and second-hand fleets.
The country has frequently looked to its allies for help in improving its defence capability.
China claims most of the South China Sea, including waters close to the shores of its neighbours.
The claim is contested by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, which have overlapping claims to some or all of those same areas.
The dispute led to a maritime standoff last year between the Philippines and China over the Scarborough Shoal.