The Philippines has said it wants to acquire two more navy ships from the US to boost its maritime protection amid military threats from China, according to the country’s military chief.
“Within the last year, we realised that there is a real threat out there in terms of securing, defending our territory,” armed forces chief of staff General Emmanuel Bautista told the Philippines’ ANC television on Wednesday.
There are Chinese fishing vessels in the West Philippine Sea as we speak.
The new acquisitions fall under the $40m in military assistance pledged by US Secretary of State John Kerry during his visit to the country in December 2013.
But Bautista said the country needs about six more frigates to effectively guard its coastline.
“In fact, we are bidding now for two frigates, hopefully we will be able to acquire them in (a) couple of years,” he said.
The Philippines is a long-time US military ally and has already received two refurbished ships in the past two years.
These boats now patrol the South China Sea where, in 2012, the flagship BRP Gregorio del Pilar, the first US acquisition, confronted Chinese ships on Scarborough Shoal, a small outcrop just off the coast of the country’s main island of Luzon.
The Chinese eventually gained control of the outcrop after Manila backed down. And the Filipino government sought UN arbitration to settle the dispute, a move which China rejected.
The Philippines has been locked in an increasingly tense standoff with China involving disputed reefs and islands in an area Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.
Bautista said the Gregorio del Pilar, as well as another frigate that arrived last year, have been deployed to protect the country’s waters.
“There are Chinese fishing vessels in the West Philippine Sea as we speak,” he said, but declined to say where they were in the disputed waters.
China has claimed almost all of the South China Sea, including waters near the cost of its neighbours.
And it recently declared an “air defence identification zone” over the East China Sea, where it is engaged in a dispute with Japan.
Kerry has warned China against imposing a similar air defence identification zone over the South China Sea.
Last week China also announced a new fisheries law requiring foreign vessels to obtain permits for activities in most of the South China Sea, triggering outrage in Manila.