The Philippines aims to boost its naval military power significantly due to the ongoing tensions in the South China Sea. According to Reuters, “The Philippines aims to buy two frigates, two helicopters and three gunboats for deployment in the South China Sea.” Chinese territorial aggression is a key factor behind this decision:
The confrontation between the Philippines and China has been particularly tense since June 2012 when China seized a rocky outcrop known as the Scarborough Shoal which is believed to be rich in oil and natural gas as well as fisheries resources.“The events in the West Philippine Sea actually gave some urgency on the acquisition,” Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad, head of the Philippine Navy’s weapons system, told reporters.The Philippines has embarked on a 15-year, 90 billion peso ($2 billion) modernization program to improve its capability to defend its maritime borders.
The Philippines isn’t planning on taking on China alone, The Diplomat reports:
Last Thursday, Philippine president Benigno Aquino III suggested to his South Korean counterpart Park Geun-hye that the two countries should form a “comprehensive strategic partnership” during a bilateral meeting in Seoul on the sidelines of the 25th ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit.[…] defense and security issues clearly featured prominently in his visit as they have in the relationship. Coloma said Park reaffirmed South Korea’s defense cooperation agreement with the Philippines, which includes 12 FA-50 fighter jets from state-owned Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) as well as donations of a patrol combat corvette, a landing craft utility and 16 rubber boats. The two sides also discussed regional security concerns, including the situation in the Korean Peninsula and the South China Sea.Aquino also later met with KAI President and Chief Executive Officer Sung Yong-ha and South Korean air force officials at Gimhae Airbase to inspect the fighter jets, which are expected to be delivered to the Philippines starting in 2015.
The latest moves by the Philippines are part of an emerging trend in southeast Asian geopolitics: China’s regional opponents, along with the U.S., are banding together to counter its growing influence and military power, in some cases putting aside major historical enmities to do so. As we’ve said before, our pivot to Asia, however little we’ve sometimes attended to it, seems to be working.