China threat prompts PH to seek more US military aid
SAN ANTONIO, Zambales—The Philippines will soon ask the United States for more military equipment and training to build its defenses as it faces Chinese “aggressiveness” in disputed waters, Armed Forces Chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said on Tuesday.
As hundreds of Filipino and American Marines simulated an amphibious assault to reclaim territory from invaders during annual war games, Catapang said he was drafting a “wish list” for US aid, including “equipment and training,” when Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario travels to the US in about a week’s time.
“The US has told us they will help us develop our capabilities, and now we are focused on maritime security,” Catapang said as he watched tanks emerge from the sea and roll onto the beach.
“We want to have capability on wetland, marshland and beach landings,” he said, elaborating on his wish list. He said he hoped the US military would train his men on the operation of amphibious tanks, which the Philippines is buying for the first time this year as part of a defense upgrade.
The US is already the biggest military supplier of the Philippines, a former colony that remains an ally through a mutual defense treaty.
Tuesday’s drills, among the first of annual war games between the allies, took place 220 kilometers (137 miles) east of Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) in the South China Sea.
The shoal is a rich fishing ground that China has controlled since the end of a maritime standoff with the Philippines in 2012.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said on Monday that a Chinese vessel recently used a water cannon to drive Filipino fishermen away from the shoal.
On Monday, Catapang criticized China’s “aggressiveness” as he showed satellite photos of its “massive” reclamations on seven reefs in the West Philippine Sea.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, home to vital shipping lanes and also believed to hold vast mineral reserves.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have often overlapping claims in the area.
During Tuesday’s drills, 21 amphibious tanks rolled out of the US Navy’s giant warship USS Green Bay to battle troops from the fictitious country “Calabania,” which invaded a Philippine island.
As the first batch of tanks approached the beach, they created a smokescreen, setting fire to diesel to hide the other tanks moving behind them. Six attack helicopters flying overhead provided air support.
The tanks then beached and marines in full battle regalia swiftly ran ashore and advanced inland. Troops fired mortar rounds toward enemy positions to make way for the ground assault.