Report: Philippines could ask US to deploy spy planes over South China Sea

“We might be requesting overflights on that," Aquino told Reuters, referring to U.S. P-3C Orion planes. "We don't have aircraft with those capabilities."

The United States has tried to maintain a neutral position on the South China Sea dispute, and the State Department declined to comment specifically on the report. Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: “As part of our longstanding military cooperation, the United States supports the Philippines in enhancing its maritime domain awareness," according to Reuters.

But China has also expressed concerns over the new U.S. military strategy, which emphasizes a “pivot” to the Pacific. Beijing has been critical of the move for being directed toward China’s growing military presence.