Thursday, 29 March 2012 11:45
Ever the dependable ally, the United States (US) government will give our country a defense assistance worth $144.66 million this year, $21.38 million (14.78%) more than what it had given us last year. This was revealed by Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alberto del Rosario in a speech delivered before the Manila Overseas Press Club (MOPC) last February 29th. (Bernice Camille V. Bauzon, “US to give Philippines $145M in defense aid,”
March 2, 2012, The Manila Times.net)
The amount, which is equivalent to about PhP6.2 billion, is intended to help “boost [our country’s] capabilities in protecting its territory, including the West Philippine Sea [formerly called South China Sea].” Secretary del Rosario further emphasized that the “West Philippine Sea remains a core national interest for the country and diplomatically, we are working to ensure that ‘what is ours’ [stays in our possession].” Apart from the defense aid, $53 million [about PhP2.2 billion] will also be given to our National Government by the US for the installation of radar systems which the Coast Watch Council (CWC) can utilize to enhance its awareness of our country’s maritime domain.
In a related development, Foreign Affairs Secretary del Rosario announced that the 1951 US-RP Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) is being updated considering the recent changes affecting both the global and regional security situations. These were his own words: “Specifically, our focal point for cooperation is to increase our capacity for territorial defense and maritime security. [Thus,] our joint military exercises, which are aimed to ensure inter-operability of [US and RP] forces, such as Balikatan [ meaning “shoulder-to-shoulder”], is a component of this priority.
Based on the provisions of the MDT, the Philippine government acquired a Hamilton-class cutter from the US Coast Guard last year; another such cutter will be made available to us this year, the Foreign Affairs Secretary further said. Incidentally, it has been reported that negotiations are also on-going for the acquisition of newer assets for the Philippine Air Force (PAF).
The increased aggressiveness of the mainland Chinese government in the West Philippine Sea, characterized by the bullying of Filipino fishermen, menacing presence of Chinese sea vessels, and building of buoys in the disputed Spratly group of islands, compelled the Philippine government to lodge the appropriate diplomatic protests. Lately, with the help of the US government, it has been trying to establish the relevant minimum defense posture. It will be recalled
that the islets and atolls composing the Spratly group, which are believed to be rich in gas and mineral reserves, are also partly or wholly claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
Within the context of such a volatile and potentially explosive situation, the military assistance the US government will give our country this year – especially its naval, radar system and air force capability components – is indeed a timely boost for the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) sustained preparation for the defense of our national territory.
by Ric Adjawie
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