US hikes military aid to PH to $79M
The United States has raised its military aid to the Philippines this year to $79 million, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg said Wednesday, amid rising tensions in the region over China’s new assertiveness in the South China Sea.
Since 2002, the United States has provided the Philippines with nearly $500 million in military assistance as well as various types of military equipment.
“We have upped our foreign military funding for the Philippines,” Goldberg told Karen Davila during “Headstart” on ANC, without giving a percentage.
“It will be somewhere in the range of $79 million this year. It’s increasing and what has been proposed is something called a maritime security initiative in the region,” he said.
“What we support is the legal, peaceful and diplomatic solution to the various claims in the South China Sea,” Goldberg added.
“It is disappointing when one of the countries involved does not want to participate in the process like the one going on in The Hague,” he said, referring to China’s refusal to take part in the arbitration proceedings in the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Netherlands mounted by the Philippines to resolve their territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
China has overlapping claims with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei in the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in shipborne trade passes every year.
Reclamation work and the building of three airfields and other facilities on some of China’s artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago have alarmed the region and raised concern in Washington that China is extending its military reach deep into maritime Southeast Asia.
“The kind of solutions that we believe are the best way forward is to settle dispute within the legal context, to talk to each other about how to go about arranging codes of conduct, so there won’t be mistakes or incidents on the sea and in the air,” Goldberg said.
“At each step along the way, the general view in the region is that China is acting outside the framework that has been agreed. That is why a lot of countries are supporting the Philippines’ case,” he said.
Washington announced earlier it had allocated $50 million in aid to Manila this year.
The Philippines remains one of the largest recipients of military aid in the region, focusing on building capability for the Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force to guard the South China Sea.
Last week, before attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Manila, US President Barack Obama boarded a Hamilton-class cutter converted into a frigate by the Philippines, a display of maritime security support for its closest ally in Southeast Asia.
Goldberg said the third Hamilton-class cutter would be arriving late next year while an old maritime research ship would be transferred by the middle of 2016.
Philippine defense and military officials said two US Marines C-130 transport planes and about eight amphibious assault vehicles were also due for delivery next year.
The Pentagon has announced it is committing $119 million this year to help develop Southeast Asian maritime capabilities and will provide $140 million next year to allies, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines.
Goldberg defended the US Navy’s freedom-of-navigation patrol near at least one of China’s artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago on Oct. 27.
The patrol angered China, which called it “US provocation.”
Goldberg said the US actions in the South China Sea came in two folds.
“One is to stress that we are interested in the peaceful solution to the issue. What the Philippines is doing is very consistent with that,” he said.
The second, he said, is beefing up the defense capability of the Philippines through the Mutual Defense Treaty between the two countries. Reports from the wires and Niña P. Calleja
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