The Philippines and Japan may hold the second round of their so-called two-plus-two security dialogue later this year in Manila, Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo said Friday, as the countries negotiate a new bilateral defense pact broached during the first session in 2022.

Manila will host the talks involving foreign and defense ministers from both countries "most likely towards the middle or second half of the year" to work out details on security, political, and economic agreements that were forged during the previous meetings of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Manalo said in a briefing with Japanese media.

The two countries agreed to sign the envisioned bilateral defense pact, known as a Reciprocal Access Agreement, to facilitate visits by the Philippine military and the Self-Defense Forces to each other's country as well as joint drills during the first two-plus-two meeting in April 2022 in Tokyo.

Philippine officials have expressed optimism it will be concluded soon as Marcos and Kishida authorized the start of the negotiations last November.

The deal, once approved, would be Japan's first with a Southeast Asian nation. It is seen as a boost to the Philippines' defense posture amid China's growing aggressive behavior in the disputed areas in the South China Sea, at a time when Manila and Beijing are among six claimants in the resource-rich international waterway.

Meanwhile, talks on possible joint oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea between the Philippines and China have been stalled since the middle of last year, according to Manalo, despite an agreement during Marcos' meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping months earlier to resume discussions.

"There's been no proposal," the Philippine diplomat said.