Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Palace downplays new Spratlys tension due to 2nd warship from US

MalacaƱang on Saturday downplayed the prospects of tensions in the Spratlys being raised anew with the expected arrival in the country of a second warship purchased from the United States.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the acquisition of the warship should not run in conflict with the zone of peace in the Spratlys that the Philippines has been pushing for.

“I don’t think the acquisition of a warship will conflict with our push for a zone of peace in the Spratlys. I don’t think anyone will disagree when we say we are in dire need of an upgrade when it comes to our military. This is the start of our modernization [process])," she said on government-run dzRB radio.

She said President Benigno Aquino III had cited the need for ships to patrol the country’s territory, saying there is “obviously a disproportion" between the existing vessels and the country’s long coastlines.

“We want to make sure we have adequate means to give to the Navy and the Coast Guard," she said.

“This is the start of our upgrade so to speak because of the equipment that we have," she added.

Earlier reports quoted Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin as saying the US will provide a second warship to the ill-equipped Philippine Navy amid the conflict over the Spratlys.

The Philippines has had brushes with China earlier this year in the contested area in the West Philippine Sea.

Six claimants are contesting the Spratlys: the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei.

According to earlier reports, US State Secretary Hillary Clinton assured Gazmin during talks in Manila last Wednesday that Washington would give the Philippines a second Coast Guard cutter virtually for free sometime in 2012.

The first second-hand cutter from the US Coast Guard sailed to Manila in August and became the most modern vessel in the Philippine fleet. — LBG, GMA News
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11/19/2011 | 12:39 PM

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