Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Philippines beefing up defense capability

MANILA, Philippines — The government on Monday said it is set to beef up its defense capability when Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, accompanied by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, travels to Washington DC next month to meet with their respective counterparts and possibly ink an agreement for the procurement of jets and additional patrol boats.
This development came up amid the reported incursion of China within the “Philippine sovereignty and maritime jurisdiction.”
Del Rosario also confirmed this, disclosing that he and Gazmin will meet with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and high officials of the Pentagon in their visit to Washington, DC to discuss the need to increase the Philippines’ military presence in the area.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) protested the recent sightings of two Chinese vessels and a People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) ship in the vicinity of Escoda (Sabina) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea on December 11 and 12, 2011, respectively.
The Escoda Shoal is located 123.6 nautical miles from Palawan and, according to the DFA, is within “Philippine sovereignty and maritime jurisdiction.”
“We’re trying to get assistance from several countries [to strengthen military capability] and the US has expressed willingness to assist us as we work on a minimum, credible defense posture [in the disputed islands in West Philippine Sea],” Del Rosario earlier said.
He pointed out that the Philippines will request two more Hamilton class cutters with the first one delivered middle of this year and a squadron or 12 units of fighter jets to be deployed on the disputed islands that are believed to be rich in natural gas and marine resources.
A report published last year by the US Naval Institute said that in the coming years, the US Navy will increasingly focus on strategic “maritime crossroads” of the Asia-Pacific region, including the South China Sea.
The plan highlights the deployment of several of US newest littoral combat ships at Singapore’s naval facility and will help the American navy sustain its global forward posture with what may be a smaller number of ships and aircraft than today.
Littoral combat ships are shallow draft vessels that operate in coastal waters and can counter coastal mines, quiet diesel submarines and small, fast, armed boats.
The US Naval Institute report admitted the ships would focus on the South China Sea, conducting operations to counter piracy and trafficking, both of which are endemic in the area.
Defense experts claimed that the disputed ownership of the oil-rich reefs and islands in the South China Sea is one of the biggest security threats in Asia.
The sea is claimed wholly or in part by China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei.
January 9, 2012, 7:36pm

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