26 May 2015
The Philippines is scheduled to receive a pair of surveillance aircraft through Foreign Military Assistance (FMA) as the country seeks “stronger commitment” from the United States to help it asserts its sovereignty over disputed areas of the South China Sea and patrol its territory.
Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said he would meet U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Wednesday in Hawaii to discuss the terms of the offer.
“I will ask about the extent of the assistance they will give us, what they can do to help us because right now we are being oppressed,” Gazmin said in a press briefing Monday.
A 5.9 billion pesos ($133 million) contract for a pair of Long Range Patrol Aircraft has been shelved by Defense Department (DND) last year due to failure of bidding.
Four US Air Force P3-Orion surveillance planes are currently stationed at Clark Air Base in Pampanga together with a pair of P-8A Poseidon advance surveillance aircraft that was recently asked by the Chinese Navy to stay away from its man made islands as Beijing tries to enforce military exclusion zone in the area.
China said on Monday it had lodged a complaint with the United States over a U.S. spy plane that flew over its territory west of the Philippines.
“We feel concerned about what is happening in the West Philippine Sea. Freedom of navigation, freedom of flight is disrupted so that even U.S. aircraft flying at the international territory are challenged.” says Gazmin.
Gazmin said the acquisition of these aircraft is very urgent considering the present condition of the times.
The Philippines does not recognize exclusion zones made by the Chinese and its surveillance aircraft was recently warned by flares to stay away in the area.
Gazmin would also be discussing military assistance for naval ships and air search radar systems in Honolulu before heading to Japan next week to join President Benigno Aquino on a three-day visit to Tokyo to discuss the transfer of additional Japanese military equipment to the Philippines to boost its maritime security.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has agreed in July last year to provide the Philippines with 10 new coast guard patrol ships as part of Japan's official development assistance.
Japan is currently in closed-door talks with the Philippines to supply it with new 100-meter-long Hida class patrol vessels.