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  • Getting Serious in South China Sea: Philippines Boosts Defense Spending

    Barely a week after returning from his relations-repairing state visit to Beijing, which he dubbed a success, President Benigno Aquino of the Philippines has directed the release of $118 million in order to “enhance the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ capability to secure the territory of the Philippines…including providing a strong security perimeter for the Malampaya Natural Gas and Power Project (MNGPP),” a gas-extraction field that provides half of the principal island of Luzon’s energy.

    Significantly, the money has been charged against revenues from the MNGPP; in other words, the security of the MNGPP is deemed under enough of a threat that funding for these acquisitions will come straight from the money the MNGPP makes. It also bears mentioning that this supplements the $1 billion already slated for the Philippines military modernization program, dubbed the Capability Upgrade Program.

    Funds will be used to acquire six multipurpose helicopters, enhance various coastal surveillance systems, and construct an air force hanger in the province adjacent to Palawan. In addition, Aquino plans to purchase two more Hamilton-class cutters from the U.S. over the next two years, thereby building upon the momentum gained from christening the Philippines’ first U.S. cutter as its navy’s flagship.

    The unspoken purpose of this acquisition is to counter Chinese claims and provocations in the South China Sea. After all, against whom else would the Philippines need to protect its interests? Although Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan also have claims in the South China Sea, none of these countries’ vessels have fired live rounds at Filipino fishermen, severed Philippine oil survey cables, and harassed Philippine ships in disputed areas, sometimes mere miles from the Philippines coastline. The guilty culprit, on at least nine separate occasions in 2011 alone, is China.

    Yet the Philippines cannot defend its territory without U.S. assistance. With the largest ever U.S. delegation currently attending the Pacific Islands Forum, the U.S. is once again demonstrating its commitment to Asia, building trust and stimulating dialogue with our partners across the region. However, there are also more concrete steps that the U.S. can take to ensure regional stability.

    First and foremost, the U.S. should continue to protect and emphasize freedom of navigation in the Pacific, in the South China Sea, and elsewhere. With upcoming budget cuts, it is imperative that Washington understands the vital role our forward-deployed military plays in ensuring regional stability by protecting these waterways and asserting freedom of the seas.

    Next, the U.S. should clearly stand by its security commitments to the Philippines. As argued in a recent Heritage paper, the U.S. should strengthen the U.S.–Philippine alliance by providing the armed forces of the Philippines with the means to defend itself through the discounted sale of excess defense articles and lend-lease programs, by supporting the Philippines in the ASEAN Regional Forum and other multilateral institutions, and by finding new areas of military cooperation, including—consistent with the Philippines’ constitution—new uses for Subic Freeport.

    Finally, President Obama should meet one-on-one with President Aquino during the Philippine leader’s visit to Washington in late September. Unconfirmed reports indicate that Obama will not be able to meet Aquino privately due to Obama’s campaign schedule. If true, it will be a damaging signal to the region about the seriousness of U.S. engagement.

    By increasing funding for its arms acquisitions and military modernization plan, the Philippine leadership is once again demonstrating its seriousness in protecting its territorial sovereignty. America’s aid to its ally has long been predicated upon the Philippines also contributing its fair share. Now that President Aquino’s commitment can no longer be in doubt, the U.S. should step up to the plate and uphold its end of the bargain.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    9 Responses to Getting Serious in South China Sea: Philippines Boosts Defense Spending

    1. Rebecca Fox says:

      Thank you for continuing to write about this! More people need to be aware of what's going on in the South China Sea. How about selling them some of the F-16s that we're not selling Taiwan?

      • james din says:

        philippine goverment cannot afford those fighter planes it will too much , if the generals in the arm-forces will refrain from coruptions then it will be possible!

        • My two cents says:

          you are obtaining six advanced trainers soon. These aircraft can aIso be fitted out too perform the Iight strike function. discussion centers on the Korean T-50 GoIden EagIe (derived from the F-16 FaIcon) and the other is an itaIian trainer the M346 Master. There are other choices but these have been the most wideIy written about at this time. Once piIots graduate from these they wouId be ready for the next step which is a true muItiroIe jet fighter.

    2. JBS says:

      With or with out commitment from US the Philippines must continue to procure armaments which has been in decade never heen in meterializes because of premature leadership of the country now is the right time though it feels hards but it worth ord even billion dollars, Philippines is reach can afford to buy for it.only those Generals wanting to be appreciated by theirs ability to acquire the cheapest way but it is wrong mentality becasue it sacrifces the filipino interst for the first place, there 4 Frigate waiting for leasing in the US, 1 is the USSGeorge Philipps which is offer philippine govt.but the generals reject it another one is the USSsides these are all missile guided frigates capable of countering of any deterrent attacts and the wo is USS Jarret and USS Doyle Philippine should get this in response to the territorials cause, well is not bad with the WHECS but for sure more deterrent is the Ferry class frigate in the spratly. i hope they were think in as much that they protect our country.the AFP.

    3. My two cents says:

      The US Government has stated it stands with the phiIippines. For a moment Iets just Iook at what Has occured. The USA is offering the taiwanese upgrades of their 145 fighters too a standard onIy exceeded by one other middIe eastern country. These fighters wiII then have AESA as weII. In addition, the wording states that the 60 new pIanes are onIy on the sheIf for now. It does not say they cannot be soId at a Iater date. That means that china's actions are being watched carefuIIy. PIans can change. nothing is edged in stone (incIuding seIIing them the fighters if china continues too buIIy). Second, the USA is seIIing the phiIippines equipment.. weapons on a ship do not in singuIarIy pose a sufficient defense. These ships have command and controI capabiIity. Command ships typicaIIy are not toe too toe combatants. Their use is usuaIIy surveiIIance and the martiaIIing of assets as needed. These are a very good baseIine to start from.

    4. My two cents says:

      your country is currentIy in negotiation for two more cutters. You are obtaining HeIicopters and gear for these ships as weII. In addtion a party visiting the PF-15 commented the combat suite was something out of a Tom CIancy NoveI quote un quote "i Kid you not". He mentioned the cabIing situation was set up too accept both the harpoon and CIWS PhaIanyx. That is standard on these cutters. It was part of their 90s upgrades. Congress chose not too fund the fitting out of the weapons systems for financiaI reasons and that the navy was better suited in non wartime too provide that service. However, in time of war coast guard becomes part of the navy. Their assets become surface combatants. So they are set up for that possibiIity if needed to be pressed into service for the wartime. These ships properIy armed are comparabIe to the Perry's (nearIy sams size), In addition they are high enduarance ships. They can work at sea states extended the perry must try and avoid.

    5. Nash says:

      Thank you for the continued US support of the Philippines. It certainly needs all the genuine help it can get, especially after the recent natural calamities like floods & typhoons and the challenges from its powerful and aggressive neighbor, China.

      I was just reading another article elsewhere online about another US ally Greece and Greece's current financial crisis. http://www.news.com.au/business/markets/greece-co

      These articles have led me to wonder if it would be possible for the US to encourage both the Philippines and Greece to help each other out in their current problems.

      Would it be possible for the US to facilitate a deal between the Philippines and Greece, so that the Philippines can utilize a part of its US$7+ billion defence modernization budget to buy or lease a squadron or two of Greece's Block 52 or Block 52+ F-16s, including training of Philippine personnel by suitably qualified English-speaking Hellenic AF personnel or USAF personnel? Or perhaps, the Philippines can be encouraged to "loan" Greece a few billion dollars by allowing the Philippine Air Force to hold a squadron or two of Hellenic F-16s as security?

      The Philippines is often thought of as a country that is so poor that it cannot afford to procure weapon systems that are less than 30 years old. However, Greece currently seems to be in a more dire economic situation and may declare national bankruptcy "within weeks" without the infusion of foreign funds, triggering another Global Financial Crisis.

      The national GDP of the Philippines is around 75% greater than that of Greece (although perhaps because of Greece's smaller population Greece's per capita GDP is some 400% higher than that of Filipinos). http://www.nationmaster.com/compare/Greece/Philip

      In fact, The Philippines' foreign exchange reserves are currently almost ten times larger than that of Greece's. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by

      The Philippines needs to better protect its air space and protect its modernization budget from being eaten away by corruption. Greece on the other hand has at least three squadrons of F-16 Block 52s but urgently needs foreign funds, otherwise her declaring bankruptcy may lead to another Global Financial Crisis.

      Can't the US help both these allies by facilitating a fair and honest deal that will be beneficial to all three nations concerned?

      Many thanks.

    6. JBS says:

      Well the idea is so good to have cutter, we may never knew Chinese vessel was taking advantage the storm in the Philippines right now and they deploy their vessel to counter the deployment of PF 15, so Govt. must prepare of readyness all the time. and according to the US defense article if no one was keen enough to buy the ship it commissioned back and upgrade the engine system so therefinore Philippines was also able to upgrade the engine from turbine engine to Diesel power engine ,why still hesitant to get this 4 Frigates perry class is more lethal than the cutter i believed. although bit expensive but the ability that the cutter dont have the perry class has. so it is really in need that the PN should acquire this ship for immediate counter balance of force in (SCS PS).

    7. Defense Enthusiast says:

      I am from a neighboring country that spends 11% of the budget on defense but only 3% on health. We have the latest weapons but we are pretty unhappy :)

      I read defense forums on your country regularly and am quite aware of the military threats, political situation and economic situation at present.

      I believe that your country will not be able to afford to have a proper military, but can only have a counter insurgency militia that has national security as a secondary goal.

      There is a blog by a certain "Opus" that lists possible arms aquisitions and I base my suggestions on what he has said.

      (Note: Due to their cost and maintenance needs, any guided missiles eg. SAM, SSM, torpedoes, cannot be considered. All that is possible are guns, dumb bombs and dumb rockets.)

      1) Armour – M113
      2) Ship – Cyclone craft
      3) COIN – Tucano aircraft
      4) Strike – MB 339 aircraft
      5) Airdefence – Mobile short range radar with mounted AA cannon.

      I understand the hopes of your country men as expressed on the forums, but as some of them have remarked, their wishes are merely dreams. As an outsider, I believe the above are suitable and affordable. Anything else would be quite impossible.

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