Philippine Government Spends P39B to Guard South China Sea

The Philippine government recently spent P39 billion (approx. $858 million) for additional protection of claimed territories in South China Sea. This is part of the country’s counter action against China’s claim over certain areas in the said region, particularly the Scarborough Shoal and the Spratly Islands.

According to Navy Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad, this upgrade by the Philippine Navy includes purchasing of three gunboats, two frigates, and two helicopters. Among the countries that have their biddings are South Korea, Spain, France, Indonesia and Italy. Shipping will be announced later.

Taccad, who is also Philippine Navy’s head of weapon system; made the announcement this Wednesday while on board the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, the country’s most powerful warship. The budget will come from P90-billion modernization project by the Philippines in the span of 15 years.

The South China Sea dispute has been going on for centuries, with the area being believed to be rich in oil and natural gas deposits. Among the other countries that claim territories in the area are Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan. However, only Philippines and China have been in huge tension for quite some time.

In June 1978, then-president Ferdinand Marcos issued Presidential decree No. 1596, declaring the Spratly Islands (Kalayaan Island Group) as part of Philippine territory. In 1994, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea caused more tension among the countries claiming territorial ownership.

In recent years, the disputes escalated between China and the Philippines. In October 2011, some 25 Chinese fishing boats in the region were caught and detained in the Philippines. That time, the Chinese Foreign Ministry demanded the return of the boats, but the Philippine government refused.

In April 2012, BRP Gregorio del Pilar encountered weeks of standoff with Chinese vessels in Scarborough Shoal. Shortly after, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino made an appeal to the United Nations to help solve the crisis. However, China announced its rejection to take part on the UN court.

As of posting, China has not yet responded to the latest action of the Philippine government. Nevertheless, experts believe that China will not give up. Meanwhile, former Bayan Muna representative Teddy Casino said he admires the move but noted that the budget might be another source of corruption.

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