US, others helping PH defense–DFABy Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Jerry E. Esplanada
Philippine Daily Inquirer
FOREIGN Secretary Albert del Rosario on Saturday said Japan, South Korea and Australia, along with the United States, were helping the Philippines establish a minimum credible defense posture to complement its diplomatic initiative in dealing with its territorial disputes with China.
In a text message to the Inquirer, Del Rosario said Japan would likely provide the country with 10 40-meter patrol boats under its official development aid and two larger ones as grants.
He said South Korea had provided the Armed Forces of the Philippines equipment, such as vests and helmets, under a logistics agreement. “I understand our defense department is looking to possibly purchase aircraft from there,” according to Del Rosario.
In November, President Aquino asked visiting South Korean President Lee Myung-bak for aircraft, patrol boats and other hardware to help boost the country’s military amid then rising tensions with China over the Spratlys islands.
Lee’s response was not disclosed but he said that Seoul wanted to help Manila resolve its maritime problems.
From Australia, Del Rosario said the country could expect to get “a number of vessels for search and rescue, as well as significant training here and abroad for large numbers of our military” when the status of the visiting forces agreement between the two countries is ratified this week.
Earlier, the military announced it would be getting a second Hamilton-class cutter from the United States.
Del Rosario has repeatedly said the country was determined to “improve our national defense by building a minimum credible defense posture.” He said that the Philippines this year would receive $144.66 million (about P6.25 billion) in defense assistance from the United States.
He also said he had secured US funding for a $53-million (about P2.3 billion) radar system for the Philippine Coast Guard.
5 Chinese warships
Del Rosario also wants to bring the territorial disputes to an international court for arbitration, but China has opposed this, insisting on bilateral negotiations.
Also yesterday, the Department of National Defense played down the reported presence of five Chinese warships in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) amid a prolonged territorial stand-off in the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.
In international waters
DND spokesperson Peter Galvez said the Chinese warships were in international waters where they had freedom of navigation.
“As long as they are in international waters, this should not be of serious concern. They are in international waters, then that’s part of freedom of navigation,” said Galvez.
“There are also ships of other countries that also go to the area. The West Philippine Sea is a heavy maritime transit area.”
The report about the deployment of Chinese warships close to the Philippines’ maritime territory came in the wake of the docking of a US submarine, the USS North Carolina, in Subic Bay last week.
The DND has also denied that the port call of the North Carolina was connected to the ongoing territorial dispute between the Philippines and China.
Galvez has said the port call was arranged days before the standoff in Panatag Shoal on April 10, when two Chinese maritime ships prevented a Philippine Navy ship from arresting Chinese poachers.
“It’s hard to connect these. It’s not for us to speculate on the actions of other countries,” he said.