Philippines to Boost Defenses in South China Sea

Posted September 7th, 2011 at 1:37 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

The Philippines says it will spend $118 million to build up its air and sea defenses in the Spratly Islands, where Chinese vessels have repeatedly disrupted oil and gas exploration efforts.

Officials said President Benigno Aquino has approved the spending to purchase a high-endurance naval cutter and six helicopters, three each for the air force and the navy. Manila took possession of a cutter purchased from the United States for the same purpose last month.

Philippines Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said Wednesday the new military hardware will be used to provide a security perimeter around the Malampaya natural gas and power project, located about 80 kilometers off the Philippines southwest coast, adjacent to the Spratlys.

The Philippines has complained of Chinese interference in oil and gas exploration in the area on at least seven occasions in recent months. Mr. Aquino agreed during a recent visit to Beijing to try to settle the dispute through diplomatic means, and China has proposed joint exploration of the area's resources.

Manila claims an exclusive economic zone extending more than 350 kilometers off its shores under the U.N. Law of the Sea convention, while China claims all land and waters in the South China Sea based on historic maps and documents. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims in the area.

In mid-August the Philippines took possession of the 115-meter BSP Gregorio Del Pilar , a 46-year-old Hamilton class cutter purchased from the United States.

In a speech on that occasion, Mr. Aquino reiterated the country's resolve to fortify its military defenses.

He said the ship symbolized his country's readiness to guard, protect, and if necessary, fight for its interests.