The Philippines has offered a US$1.5 billion budget to defense contractors around the world for phase one of its three-tier armed forces modernization program. It wishes to strengthen its bargaining chips in the dispute over the South China Sea’s disputed territories, reports the US Defense News Weekly.
In a recent dispute over the South China Sea, the Philippines has attempted to gain international support, but was tied down by its lagging military equipment, said the Global Times, the Chinese daily newspaper under the supervision of the Communist Party.
The main motivation for the program of modernization is China’s assertive claims in the South China Sea that have raised alarms in the region and from the US. Tthe Philippines has decided to give the US and Japanese navies more access to Philippine naval facilities. In addition, workshops attended by senior US military officers will be held to illustrate the needs to bolster Philippine armed forces.
Exhibitors include big-name companies from Europe, Israel, South Korea, and US: AgustaWestland, Beechcraft, Bell, Brahmos Aerospace, Elbit, Israel Aerospace Industries, Korea Aerospace Industries, Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training, Poogsan, Saab, Sikorsky and Thales.
Through this huge budget, Manila hopes by 2027 to have control of the airspace over its territories, as well as maritime patrol capabilities that include patrol and surveillance coverage for up to 200 nautical miles in its exclusive economic zone. In addition, it needs to train a land force that can perform a spectrum of capabilities from peacetime development to low intensity conflict and limited conventional warfare.
The first phase of procurements has already begun and will last until 2017. The Navy has purchased two strategic sealift vessels and is also looking at the AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat helicopter.
The Philippine Navy needs new frigates, anti-submarine helicopters, multi-purpose attack craft, amphibious assault vehicles, marine forces imagery and targeting support systems and basing support systems. The country’s Air Force needs air surveillance radar, fighter aircraft, long-range patrol aircraft, close-air support aircraft, combat utility helicopters, flight simulators and basing support systems for radars and aircraft. The Philippine Army recently signed a contract for 142 upgraded M113A2 armored personnel carriers.
In response to the Philippine request for permission at Forum Energy for one more year of continued gas exploration on Reed Bank in the disputed South China Sea, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hong Lei stated that China’s authority over the Nansha Islands (Spratly Islands) and nearby nautical area is indisputable, which includes the bank. Any explorations conducted within this zone without China’s permission will be considered illegal and thus invalid.