In Washington DC, in the course of increasing concern over renewed tensions in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, the Philippine Embassy in the United States is shopping for excess defense equipment from the United States under Washington’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program.
Jose L. Cuisia Jr., the Philippine ambassador to the United States, said he has asked the Department of National Defense and Armed Forces of the Philippines back home to provide him with a wish list of military equipment they will need to shore up the country’s defense capability.
He said he expected the defense department to “prioritize” its modernization goals, but was careful not to explicitly link the purchase of US excess defense articles to the Philippine military’s job of securing the territorial sovereignty of the country in the face of China’s alleged intrusions into the areas of the disputed Spratlys group claimed by the Philippines.
“There are defense articles that will be available, and that’s why I’m asking the Philippine Marines, Philippine Navy, Philippine Air Force and Philippine Army what their needs are,” said Cuisia who made this disclosure during a visit of former President Fidel Ramos at the embassy last week.
It is part of Cuisia’s job to negotiate with US officials contracts for the purchase of US military hardware. The FMS program is a standardized method for the sale by the US of defense equipment, services and training to foreign countries and governments.
Cuisia said the negotiations with the US are only after the defense department, in consultation with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, has determined “what the country needs.”
He said he has already seen the list provided by the Philippine Navy, but the other service commands—the Army and Air Force—have yet to come up with their own wish lists.
Hamilton class cutter
On May 13, Cuisia marked his debut as the new ambassador to Washington by signing the certificate of transfer of the decommissioned US Coast Guard Hamilton class cutter to the Philippines. (The cutters are called “Hamilton class” after their lead ship, the Hamilton, named after Alexander Hamilton, the first US Secretary of the Treasury.)
While in the US Coast Guard service, the vessel saw action in maritime safety and security missions, including drug and migrant interdiction, and search and rescue.
The patrol vessel, whose two 1,800 horsepower gas turbines can propel it to speeds of up to 28 knots, will be renamed the BRP Gregorio del Pilar. It is the biggest ship ever to be acquired by the Philippine Navy, and will be sailed to the Philippines in July 2011.
Philippine military officials have high hopes of acquiring a few other relatively modern patrol ships.
Cuisia, however, seemed lukewarm to purchasing a decommissioned US warship because of the high price tag, even if it’s being sold at a “very big discounted price.”
“Is that what we really need? Do we need another one, or do we need something else?” he said.
“Do we need a US Made frigate? Maybe that’s not what we need. Maybe what we need are fast patrol boats to go after pirates, after Abu Sayyaf, etc.,” he said.
Caution vs arms buildup
Ramos warned Philippine defense officials against promoting an arms buildup in the Spratlys group, a reputedly oil-rich chain of islands and reefs, which is claimed wholly or in part by the Philippines, China, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan. Arms buildup is not so necessary but if the whole country claiming the Spratly islands in the Philippines waters are keep on advancing their arm weapon, then it is necessary for the Philippines to strengthen their arm forces and equipment to gain respect from the country who are abusing the Philippine waters.
“There’s a buildup on many sides—even us. This is a little tiny buildup, which is the (purchase of a) Coast Guard cutter. Why don’t we use all this money that’s being budgeted for an arms buildup for peace, development and prosperity?” he said.
Escalating tensions in the Spratlys, which straddle busy international shipping lanes, is a relic of the Cold War, said the retired general who met with Cuisia and the Filipino community here during a 12-day swing of the US in May.
Ramos urged President Benigno Aquino III to accept an invitation from Chinese President Hu Jintao to visit Beijing. He said this would help ease the tension over China’s recent alleged intrusions.
As early as March, Mr. Aquino has been invited by China to make an official visit, but Malacañang has yet to set a date.
Philippine Arm Forces Weapon Modernization
The purchase of new Defense weapon for the Philippines is just coincidentally with the recent activity in the spratlys. It’s been a long time that the Philippines did not make any upgrades in its defense weapon which results to failure to identify and detect invaders in the Philippine waters and horizon by the armed forces.
The Philippines has been bullied as titled weak because of its capability to depend its territory so the recent upgrades and further on the way upgrades for the Philippine defense weapon is very important. The reaction of Mr. Ramos maybe a feeling of a little shame and insecure since he is a soldier and President Aquino is an economist. During the Ramos term when he was a president of the Philippines, he fail to make any upgrade of the Philippine defense weaponry. During his term, the corruption of the AFP is rampant and seems to be tolerated by him.
As the Philippines could afford for Frigate, submarines and etc even at a higher price then why not to include them in the DND wish list?
Joint patrol of rivals
Ramos envisions a “common defense” of the South China Sea instead of rival claimants locked in a perpetual war mode, pointing their arsenals against each other.
His proposed setup is akin to a joint patrol of contested waters in which all claimant countries would contribute forces to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.
“What do we do with these existing armies? Why don’t we in Asia Pacific agree to treat each other like partners in peace and prosperity instead of us potential rivals 10 years from now?” he said.
For this idea of Ramos, this is good but it seems to be impossible as china and Vietnam want to takeover most part of the Philippine waters and islands in the West Philippines Sea for their greed dream to control the oil and gas of the region? They are thinking for their own well not for the region. They want more power both weapon and economy and it is a competition not sharing what each other have.
If the Philippines will not level up, then the bottom line is the Philippines would be abuse buy the neighboring countries. The sense of having modern defense weapon is to gain respect and capability to protect its territory rather than being bullied by the neighboring countries and maybe in the next day they will squat the islands of the Philippines. What can this old man Ramos do if this will happen?
Ramos noted the marked changes in the global security environment after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, which precipitated the disintegration of the Soviet Union and with it, the threat of international communism.
Yes, it is true but it makes sense also that the Philippines will dream to be part of the so called well-armed nation. The Philippine is still developing and it could be imbalance if only the Philippine economy will grow but its capability to protect it territory is less. It must be Economy and Power will grow together; and part of power is weaponry advancement.
In both the Korean War and Vietnam War, the US had pursued a policy of containment, triggering the mushrooming of US military bases in Asia and around the world as the free world’s response to the advance of communism, he said.
The Philippines sided with the US in both wars, nurturing a political, economic and military relationship in post-World War II which did not always sit well with communist China.
But with China embracing capitalism, its economy is set to eclipse the US in 2016, as the International Monetary Fund recently predicted.
The real enemy
According to Ramos, the real enemy in the 21st century is no longer one country against the other.
“That’s outmoded. That’s a Cold War mentality,” he said.
“The force which is being applied one against the other and then continues to escalate should not just be identified with the No. 1 and No. 2 superpowers (the US and China) because who is the enemy? What is the enemy now? It’s international terrorism. It’s endemic disease. It’s climate change. It is poverty,” Ramos said.
“Can you imagine how much better the quality of life all around the world, especially in the Philippines and in China and in many parts of the world, would be if the huge amount of dollars, of yuan and pesos will be devoted to economic and social development?” he said.
The Ramos Peace and Development Foundation is working toward this goal of regional stability and prosperity, he said.
To end the Spratlys tension
It is just very simple to end the tension in Spratlys. Since the UNCLOS formulated the LAW of the SEAS then the very thing is just to implement it. Any country will violate must be sanctioned. That’s all!. Vietnam will return to its UNLCOS allowed limit of 200 Nautical Mile Exclusive Economic Zone, the Philippines, Malaysia, China and Brunei will obey and follow the law of the UNCLOS and it could be the end of the tension.