News / Asia

US-Philippines War Games Open in Disputed Waters

The USS John S. McCain destroyer at Subic Bay, Philippines, June 26, 2014. (Simone Orendain/VOA)The USS John S. McCain destroyer at Subic Bay, Philippines, June 26, 2014. (Simone Orendain/VOA)
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The USS John S. McCain destroyer at Subic Bay, Philippines, June 26, 2014. (Simone Orendain/VOA)
The USS John S. McCain destroyer at Subic Bay, Philippines, June 26, 2014. (Simone Orendain/VOA)
Simone Orendain

This week the United States and Philippines launched military joint exercises in the South China Sea.  With a newly signed military agreement between the treaty allies, the Philippines, which is locked in a dispute with China over territorial claims in the sea, is now heavily focused on beefing up its maritime capabilities.

This year’s exercises include the Philippines’ two newest and biggest warships. Philippines fleet commander Rear Admiral Jaime Bernardino said the country is dealing with various “threats” at a time that its “modest” military upgrade is taking shape.
 
Bernardino said the Philippine troops need to train hard and get their ships ready.  He said the decades-old former U.S. coast guard cutters are “purposely being put to the test” now that they have been converted into frigates.
 
“You see these ships?  Their capability [is] to detect aircraft, to detect submarines, to detect surface assets and [to] try to board and search,” he explained.
 

Commodore Ramon Joseph Mercado, Philippines exercises commander, Rear Admiral Jaime Bernardino, Philippine Fleet Commander and Rear Admiral Stuart Munsch, U.S. Commander of Submarine Group 7 stand to attention during opening rites of the joint naval exercCommodore Ramon Joseph Mercado, Philippines exercises commander, Rear Admiral Jaime Bernardino, Philippine Fleet Commander and Rear Admiral Stuart Munsch, U.S. Commander of Submarine Group 7 stand to attention during opening rites of the joint naval exerc
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Commodore Ramon Joseph Mercado, Philippines exercises commander, Rear Admiral Jaime Bernardino, Philippine Fleet Commander and Rear Admiral Stuart Munsch, U.S. Commander of Submarine Group 7 stand to attention during opening rites of the joint naval exerc
Commodore Ramon Joseph Mercado, Philippines exercises commander, Rear Admiral Jaime Bernardino, Philippine Fleet Commander and Rear Admiral Stuart Munsch, U.S. Commander of Submarine Group 7 stand to attention during opening rites of the joint naval exerc

The frigates, docked at the former U.S. naval base in Subic, are being retrofitted with machine guns and have brand new companion helicopters from Italy that officials say will serve as a second set of eyes from above.  Bernardino says the helicopters will also be able to land on other ships, delivering crews to search for contraband onboard.
 
Lieutenant Rommel Rodriguez is Philippine Navy spokesman for the exercises known as CARAT (Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training).  He regularly participates in the joint training and says he has seen a marked difference with being able to use the new hardware.
 
“These helicopters are able to scour the vast sea in a very quick span of time giving the information and coordinates to operating ships in the area, which gives us more efficiency.  It lessens our operating expenses so it’s more efficient,” explained Rodriguez.
 
Officials say they are focused on better monitoring the surrounding seas.  The Philippines, with a $1.9 billion military budget in 2014, is focused on building up its “minimum credible defense posture” in the face of China’s growing assertion of its claims in the South China Sea.
 
China, which said it is spending $132 billion on the military this year, claims practically the entire sea, based on ancient maps and historical records.  In recent months it has been carrying out land reclamation activities on several outcroppings, which officials suspect will support military activity.  The Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also have claims in the waters, believed to hold vast oil and gas reserves.

Half of the Philippines armed forces are land-based, while about one quarter are sea-focused and the other quarter, air.  In a country whose military attention for decades was on insurgency and internal rebellion, making the shift to protecting sovereign rights has meant modernizing, and doing it quickly.  Two years ago, President Benigno Aquino announced a $1.7 billion boost for the military modernization program, spread out over five years.  

Security Analyst Rommel Banlaoi heads the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research.  He said the recently signed military agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines will give a strong boost to maritime abilities.
 
“Through joint and military exercises with the United State, the Philippines also expects transfer not only of skills but also of some technologies, particularly surveillance technologies,” said Banlaoi.
 
The agreement covers increased U.S. troop visits, additional joint exercises, storage of American materiel and American-built facilities within Philippine bases.
 
But Carl Baker with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies says for now, the Philippines might do better to focus on policing the waters rather than securing them.  “It comes to be a matter of disputants claiming legal rights and the Navy isn’t the right organization to enforce those rights in territorial waters,” he said.
 
The Philippines has placed an order for 10 coast guard vessels from Japan that it expects to receive by 2017.  
 
This year’s joint naval exercises are taking place in waters just south of Scarborough Shoal, where in 2012 a months-long standoff between the Philippines and China ended with China taking control of the shoal.  The rich fishing spot lies about 225 kilometers west of the Philippines and some 400 kilometers from China.
 
Officials say training in the vicinity of the shoal is routine. 

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Comments page of 2
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by: So So from: US
June 28, 2014 4:51 PM
It may take another 10 years, a lot more money and a strong determination for the country to have something meaningful. A free-riding mentality will not get you there.


by: art from: usa
June 28, 2014 7:44 AM
1- STOP buying CHINA products.
2- STOP traveling to CHINA.
3-STOP flying CHINA airline (even via connections)
4- STOP doing business with CHINA
5- STOP teaching or showing CHINA how to make a copy (this is what chinese will come back
and bite you).
6- STOP selling high tech goods to CHINA.
7- STOP spying for CHINA.
8- STOP making friends to CHINA.
9- STOP inviting chinese to your countries (this is where they spy or engage in espionage)
10- STOP watching chinese movies or TV series opera


by: tienzern from: WA
June 28, 2014 1:02 AM
What if China and Russia held a join exercise in South China Sea? Is the US going to face 3 different conflicts in the world? 1) Ukrain, 2) Irag, 3) South China Sea. Is this is going to be a good thing for the US. Is the US still spend too much money in the military. Should we invest our money in the education, social wellfare, roads and bridges? Or we should continue our job as the world cops? Should we invest more in our manufacturing to take back our leadership in the manufacturing, or become the warlord of the world?


by: AZcowboy from: az
June 27, 2014 9:27 PM
Have fun and disregard those USD rich Chinese for whatever they claim or complaint about. They have been sucking blood not only from American people but the whole world as well, and now they want to own the entire planet too? Yeah teach those fat boys to be realistic.

In Response

by: Ian from: USA
June 28, 2014 10:11 PM
Tien Zern,
"The Chinese people has never stepped out of their boundary for more than 5000 years. Not now, not in the future."

Do you know why ?
Because China always redraws the boundary ever bigger and encroaching on other peoples' lands and seas so Chinese people can claim that they have never stepped out of their boundary .

In Response

by: Tien Zern from: Washington
June 28, 2014 1:18 AM
China people did not suck any American people's blood. It is the opposite. The Chinese people work very hard. Most of people there work more than 12 hours a day. They sweat and bleed to make stuff for the American people and the whole world. They didn't want to own the entire planet. That's the goal for the western capitalism to own the world. The Chinese people has never stepped out of their boundary for more than 5000 years. Not now, not in the future. They only want something that was theirs to be returned.


by: Bow from: LA
June 27, 2014 8:50 PM
China used to have the 9 Dash Lie, now it's a 10 Dash Lie, regardless of how you look at it, it's still a Big Dash Lie! If Reagan was alive he would have said:"Xi Jin Ping,Tear down these Dash!".

In Response

by: moomoo from: Boston, USA
June 29, 2014 5:36 PM
I think President Reagan would have said : what is that ? This 9 Dash Lie isn't worth a rat's ass ! are you kidding me ?

In Response

by: moomoo from: Boston, USA
June 29, 2014 5:29 PM
9 Dash Lie ! I like that ! hope it'll be listed in English dictionary soon !

In Response

by: Tien Zern from: Washington
June 28, 2014 1:32 AM
Twist othe people's word from "Line" to "Lie" to score its political gain is shameful. There is nothing funny about.


by: Sean Samuyao from: Philippines
June 27, 2014 7:08 PM
The rule of law must prevail so as to avert further bloody confrontation like what occurred in Vietnam a month ago. UNCLOS has the sole jurisdiction to mediate on this sea row and it's compelling that China in order to preserve harmony and peace in the Asian region must submit her map with substantiating proof of ownership for verification and authentication to the UN Court where Philippines had lodged her complaint against her. Simple as that but facts remains that China refused to file her counter claim despite UN order meaning then that she hasn't an iota of proof to back her claim

In Response

by: Tien Zern from: Washington
June 28, 2014 1:43 AM
Since when UNCLOS has become an organiztion to certify each country's maps that were published?? Did Philipino submit a new map right after they have stolen an island, (right next to the Taipin Island, the largest island in the South China Sea, both were occupy by the Taiwanese government) from Taiwan? Don't be rediculous! All this puppet organizations were created by the benefit of its own member. In the peace time they works great, everybody is happy. In the desputting matter, they have no real man power to perform, or become some sort of mouth pieces of influential countries.


by: Andres Latogan from: Philippines
June 27, 2014 6:49 PM
Military show of force isn't the solution to China's aggression rather it may ignite the fuse of war for China acts today like a suicide bomber so to forestall any loss of life due to a gory war, decapitate China through her economy and voila, she deflates or burst like a pricked balloon. Hit China on her ballooned economy and she'll fall with a huge thud like a collapsing sumo wrestler.

In Response

by: MrLars from: Chicago
July 01, 2014 2:23 PM
Tien Zern, would you mind doing a spell check before you post on here please? Your comments are teeming with mispelled words and run on sentences. Thanks

In Response

by: Tien Zern from: Washington
June 28, 2014 2:02 AM
Regarless of the religion! People use the name of religion to attack others. Feel superior than others, just because they believe in something they believe. China has not pull anybody to help them to recover the land they have lost during those bad days, during those times the other countries came to steal her treasure, burn her house, split her land and kill her people. Those were the sad days. Now these days those bad things still come. The Diaoyu Island was handed over to Japan. The small pieces of islands were encourgaed to taken away from China, just to mug China to make her looks bad. Just because she was a communist turn capitalist, she doesn't deserve anything better. She should stay poor and dirty, right???!!! So let's "Pivot" to Asian, to weaken her. Let's again, slap her on the face, rape her in front of everybody. Isn't this what the world is doing????

In Response

by: sam from: Philippines iloilo city
June 27, 2014 8:40 PM
Philippines is an Catholic country, we will defend what God gave us. and We will increase military power for future invasion of China. Wether we will be in peace or not, china will invade. Because thats their future plan. So if you are scared, run, go to south america, its peaceful their. People like you are cowards since the beginning of time.


by: Hawot from: US
June 27, 2014 6:37 PM
Since all lakes and river of China are polluted. They need East and South China Sea so they can survive. They cant use all their money in buying all kinds of Sea foods from other countries, thats why they need to conquer East ans South China Sea.










In Response

by: Hoodydoo from: US
June 29, 2014 4:11 AM
Well instead of building up there military... Maybe they should spend it on cleaning up there river, lakes, there plants to reduce pollution and make a better place...


by: American from: Los Angeles
June 27, 2014 5:21 PM
Are the lessons of Vietnam,Iraq, and Afghanistan good enough for us?


by: Tan from: USA
June 27, 2014 2:29 PM
The South China Sea has been an OPEN sea, where vital INTERNATIONAL shipping lanes crossing for hundreds of years. Suddenly, China claims the entire sea, violating international laws and threatening freedom of navigation and of overflight. Some Chinese sources even claim the Pacific (Okinawa, Guam, Hawaii...), and Indian Oceans! "(The Chinese officer said) You, the US, take Hawaii East and we, China, will take Hawaii West and the Indian Ocean.", USNavy Admiral Timothy J. Keating recalled.

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