MANILA, Philippines- An increase of about two-thirds of military assistance and an additional vessel will be provided by the US military for the Philippines to help the country protect the maritime border against China, Philippines Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario said on Wednesday.
According to del Rosario, Washington had increased its annual military assistance to the Philippines from US$30 million to about US$50 million, which marks the highest level of assistance provided by the US since the troops returned to the Philippines 13 years ago.
“For military financing, it’s an allocation that is worked out by the US Congress, and it’s usually for acquisition and maintenance,” del Rosario said.
Furthermore, Rosario added that the additional funds will help the nation secure its maritime borders as discordance with China over territorial claims in the South China Sea continues to intensify.
Moreover, the U.S. may provide a third Hamilton-class clutter to increase naval patrols amidst the territorial dispute.
Currently, the Philippines have two Hamilton-class cutters, which are the largest and newest class of vessels in the Philippine Navy. The first cutter is currently navigating the South China Sea while the second cutter, a former US Navy base, is set to arrive next week in Subic Bay. It will be repainted first before joining its sister ship on patrols.
Moreover, the first two ships were acquired free of cost under the excess defense articles (EDA) in which Washington provides old and no longer active in use equipment. However, an amount of US$25 million was spent to restore them.
Since 2002, the US has provided the country with $312 million in military aid and equipment.
Since the early 1990s, the US navy has been operating from two of the Philippines’ large military bases providing a security canopy against communists and Moro guerillas. Moreover, the nation is now considering plans to allow Washington to have a broader access to civilian and military bases to help expand the country’s defense capability, in which, several media critics suggested that US is trying to establish a more persistent existence in the South China Sea.
According to Su Hao, professor of Asia-Pacific Studies at China Foreign Affairs University, US will not openly admit its intentions.
“The US would like to see Manila posing threats to China or back to Manila behind the scenes, but it is reluctant to have open conflicts with China,” he said.
Last year, a US defense contractor build an operation to service US Navy ships at Subic Bay, in which Ambassador Jose Cuisia said US can now have a greater access to the country’s bases.
Moreover, the US has constantly insisted that it would not interfere in the continuing territorial disputes between Philippines and China. However, it has pesistently assist the country in military defenses expansion.
Dessa Ruth B. Reyes
Leyte Normal University