Friday, December 19, 2014

Philippine Navy and Coast Guard Beefing UP

 The Philippines with at least one shoal within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) illegally occupied by Chinese naval forces is building up its naval and coast  guard forces. Recently the Philippine Navy announced the pending purchase two frigates, two helicopters, and three gunboats. All are slated for deployment in the South China Sea where the Dragon is presently running roughshod over watery territory of the Philippines. There is a sense of urgency in these acquisitions. These purchases come hard on the heels of a number of moves by the Philippines to harden potential defenses against China. The Philippines, despite a past history of brutal occupation by Imperial Japan, last year announced that the Republic had no objections to Japan increasing the size and power of the Japanese Naval Self Defense Force, which is actually now among the world's top five navies. Additionally the Philippines has accepted gifts and loans of naval equipment from Japan.  Japan has its own disputes with China over Chinese claims to islands that are Japan's by tradition, long administration, and formal treaty.

 China claims virtually the entire South China Sea and rejects claims by the Philippines,Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan. These nations have sea border issues among themselves near the margins of their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) as recognized under the current United Nations Law of the Sea Convention. However all of these disputes are based on legal arguments well recognized in the presently applicable international law and it does not appear that any of these nations claim boundaries extending farther seaward than the law allows nor have these disputes come to serious military confrontation. China, however treats the entire South China Sea, an important international shipping route as its exclusive national territory. Not surprisingly the region is full of oil, natural gas ,and rich fisheries.

 The Chinese/Philippine confrontation has been particularly intense since June of 2012 when China illegally seized a rocky semi submerged formation known as Scarborough Shoal, a known rich fisheries resource and a geological feature believed to contain oil and gas. Unable to dislodge the Chinese from this stronghold within their EEZ the Philippines has embarked on a 15 year $2 billion dollar naval modernization program.

 The Contracts were announced on board the Philippine Navy's most powerful ship the BRP GREGORIO del PILAR, which is a former U.S. Coast Guard Hamilton Class Cutter. As the Philippines attempts to build up, China is reclaiming land and creating man made islands over certain shallow shoals, building air strips and even ports on certain islands belonging to her maritime neighbors. The Philippines, a close has brought international arbitration cases against China seeking peaceful settlement of these territorial disputes in accordance with existing international law. China refuses to participate in the arbitration. None the less a ruling is expected in the case sometime in 2015. Vietnam, a virtual Chinese vassal state also filed a case with the UN against China and drew an angry and threatening response from the Dragon

The United States will be supplying Coastal Radars for this build up but South Korea, Spain, France, Taiwan and Indonesia are the bidders so far on the ships and helicopters. The Philippines is building her naval and coast guard defenses as rapidly as her tax revenues and foreign aid allow. Fortunately some of her maritime neighbors are also trying to contain the Dragon to its own waters and are competent small combatant ship builders, so some of the defense spending will contribute to the regional economy. The animosity of the Dragon has done positive good for the Philippine / Japanese relationship and provides Japan with a situation in which her government can explore how best to promote regional collective security while operating within the  essentially demilitarized constitution of Japan.

 PD: by Tomwsulcer

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