News / Asia

Philippines Boosts Patrols Amid China Sea Dispute

Philippine Navy special operations group on board speed boats patrol off Subic Bay, facing South China Sea, Aug. 6, 2013.
Philippine Navy special operations group on board speed boats patrol off Subic Bay, facing South China Sea, Aug. 6, 2013.
Simone Orendain
The Philippines’ second Hamilton-class warship has arrived in local waters at a time of continuing territorial tensions in the South China Sea. Manila's military expansion program plans to build what the Philippines calls a “minimum credible defense posture.”
 
Under rainy skies and with much fanfare, President Benigno Aquino greeted the 115-meter cutter at Alava Wharf, near the former United States naval base. Aquino said the ship would guarantee patrolling of the country’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone, which borders its coastlines.
 
  • The BRP Ramon Alcaraz prepares to dock for a formal welcoming ceremony at Subic Freeport, Philippines, August 6, 2013.
  • Philippine President Benigno Aquino greets the crew of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz during a welcome ceremony as it docks at Subic Freeport, August 6, 2013.
  • Students and other guests wave Philippine flags to welcome the BRP Ramon Alcaraz at Subic Freeport, August 6, 2013.
  • Philippine fishermen and a navy patrol gun boat welcome the arrival of BRP Ramon Alcaraz in the Casiguran Sea, northeastern Philippines, August 2, 2013.

“[This ship] is strengthening the government’s military modernization program," he said. "And it is erasing the old image of a military that lacks equipment and makes things hard on personnel.”
 
The 46-year-old BRP Ramon Alcaraz is a second-hand Coast Guard cutter from the United States’ store of used military assets.  It joins another used cutter that the Philippines bought from Washington in 2011.  With refurbishing and retrofitting of remotely operated machine guns and other hardware, the Alcaraz cost the Philippines about $15 million.
 
In May, Aquino announced a $1.8 billion infusion to the country’s military upgrade program, which still places it behind some of the smaller defense budgets in the region.

The new hardware includes half a squadron or 12 fighter jets, two frigates and an air-surveillance radar system.  Defense spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said the department wants these purchases to be completed before 2016 when Aquino’s term ends.
 
Galvez did not give specific details on the models and capabilities of the equipment. He also did not directly name China’s controversial patrols in the South China Sea as a reason for upgrading military capabilities. But defense officials’ plans for the warships clearly indicate they are likely to be sent to the disputed waters.
 
“If you have, for example some third party or other countries who do not respect your territory and go in there and get the resources that are in there, that’s technically stealing from you.  So that’s where the defense comes in,” said Galvez.
 
In recent years the Philippines has complained of what it calls China’s “intrusions” into its claimed waters.  Last year ships from the two countries faced-off at Scarborough Shoal, over alleged poaching by Chinese fishermen.  In May the country filed a diplomatic protest citing the presence of Chinese surveillance ships and a frigate at nearby Second Thomas Shoal.
 
China said it has “indisputable sovereignty” over the resource-rich sea, while the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei have whole or partial claims to it.
 
Galvez said the military’s main concern is to have a minimum credible defense stance, and that means surveillance is a priority.  “It may not necessarily mean a capability to use particularly lethal force, it may be as simple as having an eye or being able to have maritime awareness, maritime domain awareness or territorial domain awareness,” he said.

Christian Le Miere, senior fellow at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, sees the Philippine military’s naval capability as very “low-base.”  He said it falls short of providing a minimum credible defense.  “Given the limited budget that the Philippines has and the very powerful adversary it faces, potentially in China, the best possible route for it to take would be to emphasize what’s known as sea-denial capabilities.  That is those capabilities that aim to deny an adversary the use of the sea, rather than to control the sea itself,” Le Miere stated.
 
So far, many of the standoffs between China and the Philippines in the disputed sea have involved fishing ships or Chinese observation vessels - not military ships. Carl Thayer of the Australia Defense Force Academy said the Philippines militarization of the South China Sea carries risks.
 
“At the moment, China’s not using its military force, so it becomes what’s called ‘asymmetric.’  How do you deal with coast guard ships that are occupying Scarborough Shoal?  And if the Philippines is using military ships, that’s sort of escalating it,” said Thayer.
 
The Philippine Coast Guard, which only has six functioning vessels recently announced it is purchasing five from France and it expects to acquire 10 Japanese patrol boats over the next three years.

You May Like

Photogallery US to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Expanded Ebola Effort

At US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Obama is to announce troop deployment, other details of US plans to fight Ebola outbreak More

China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid