The Department of National Defense (DND) plans to acquire anti-aircraft guided missiles, which will be positioned in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) as part of the country’s first-ever missile defense system.
Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang disclosed late Saturday that this proposal had reached Malacañang and had been the subject of many discussions among Cabinet members.
“It’s (the missile acquisition) been talked about but I don’t know if we’ve made a decision (yet),” said Carandang, who regularly attends meetings of the Cabinet cluster on national security.
Amid fresh Chinese incursions into Philippine waters, Carandang said that what the Navy needed was “sea vessels.” He did not elaborate.
A Palace spokesperson, Undersecretary Abigail Valte, neither confirmed nor denied when asked in a radio interview on Saturday if the defense establishment was about to purchase missiles to bolster its firepower amid tensions in the Scarborough Shoal.
“I will defer comment on the particular system that is being mentioned and I will coordinate with the DND,” said Valte, who also declined to confirm if Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin was set to fly to Israel next week to look for missile suppliers.
Valte, however, mentioned the DND’s plan to upgrade the military’s hardware as part of the long-delayed modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
“But as far as procuring equipment is concerned, we all know that we are in the process of getting—of upgrading—or at least leveling up on the hardware that we currently have in order to meet the needs of our soldiers,” said Valte.
She promised to look into the military’s “wish list for procurement before commenting” on the reported missile defense plan of the AFP.
Since last month, Palace spokespersons have been talking about the military achieving a “minimum credible defense” to defend the country’s territory, especially in the West Philippine Sea where China has staked a claim on disputed islands and waters.
In his speech on Independence Day, President Aquino vowed to defend the country’s sovereignty in a veiled message to China whose military firepower—whether conventional or nonconventional weapons—could easily smash the antiquated hardware of the AFP.
During the 115th anniversary of the Philippine Navy in May, the President announced that the P75-billion modernization budget for the AFP—approved last year—was being pursued by his administration.
He said the military upgrade would help defend the country’s maritime territory against “bullies.”