The Philippines is plowing ahead with a military upgrade and increased cooperation with the US navy, the AP reports
. In a letter to Philippine Congressional leaders, the defense and foreign affairs ministers wrote that American troops and ships will soon be allowed more access to Philippine territory to help the Philippines maintain a “minimum credible defense” while it embarks on an ambitious military expansion program. “This relationship is useful not only in our diplomacy but also in enhancing our capabilities at the vital task of territorial defense,” the ministers wrote.China’s frequent claims on disputed territory in the South China Sea irk the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations, and China’s stronger navy usually wins standoffs with the weaker neighbors. The Philippines, growing tired of being outgunned on the high seas, has turned to the US for help in offsetting China’s aggression, and not a moment too soon:
Confidential Philippine military surveillance reports seen by the AP said that 61 Chinese vessels were sighted in Manila-claimed areas of the disputed Spratly Islands from July 4 to 10. China has also turned Mischief Reef, which it occupied in 1995 amid protests from Manila, into a logistical base to help Chinese ships better patrol the seas.
China has also erected two concrete posts at the narrow entrance of a vast lagoon to erect a rope barrier and better control entry into Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground which came under Beijing’s control after Philippine ships backed off from a tense face-off last year.
The Philippines also took control of a former US Coast Guard ship on Tuesday. The BRP Ramon Alcaraz is the second such marine patrol vessel the Philippines has bought from the US.