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

Video Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid