The Philippines is the top recipient of maritime security assistance from the United States for its Asian allies, the White House revealed.
“The Philippines remains the largest recipient of maritime security assistance, and will receive a record $79 million in bilateral assistance of the FY 2015 funds allocated for developing Southeast Asian maritime capabilities,” it said in a statement following US President Obama’s visit to a Philippine warship shortly after his arrival on Tuesday.
In his speech after his short tour to BRP Gregorio del Pilar, a frigate which represents Philippine resistance to China after a standoff in the South China Sea in 2012 and a one-time US Coast Guard vessel, Obama said they are donating two more ships for the Philippine Navy.
The White House said that the two ships are US Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell, the same class as Del Pilar, intended to bolster Philippine maritime presence and patrols in its waters; and R/V Melville, to support naval research and law enforcement capabilities.
“We will continue to support the National Coast Watch System and assist the Philippines through the Global Security Contingency Fund (GSCF), building capacity in Philippine maritime vessel maintenance, training, law enforcement support, and intelligence assistance to expand the country’s ability to detect, track, and interdict where necessary criminal and terrorist elements involved in the smuggling of sensitive items and illicit goods,” the White House also said.
The Philippines should also expect “increased and more complex exercises and training” with the United States for better interoperability and professionalization.
In his visit, Obama made no mention of China but touring a Philippine naval vessel as his first stop is a clear message that regional maritime security is a priority of the United States.
China claims most parts of the South China Sea and has asserted its rights by building artificial islands in several reefs. The US is one of the countries against this aggressive moves and insists on freedom of navigation.
The Philippines, meanwhile, filed an arbitration case in a United Nations-backed court in 2013. Recently, the same court ruled that it has jurisdiction over the case. Hearings will be set later this month. CDG
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