Sunshine Lichauco de Leon in Manila
guardian.co.uk, Monday 6 August 2012 15.59 BST
The US is helping the Philippines modernise and improve its military capability in the face of a growing confrontation with China over supremacy in the South China Sea, according to people familiar with defence and security policy in the Asian nation.
The Americans have already agreed to transfer two naval vessels to an underpowered Philippine navy, and there are discussions on everything from fighter jets, a coastal radar system and even increased numbers of American troops on the ground in the Philippines. While all sides know that the Philippine armed forces will never be a match for the Chinese superpower, with whom they have several territorial squabbles in the South China Sea, the military moves are designed to furnish the Philippines with a "minimum credible defence position," officials say.
The US has already transferred to its Pacific ally two decommissioned coast guard cutters. The first, the Gregorio del Pilar, arrived August 2011 and replaced a second world war era vessel as the Philippine navy's biggest and newest ship. The second is expected to arrive this year.
Filipino officials familiar with defense and security policy have told the Guardian this might just be the beginning of an era of enhanced military cooperation. Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, chair of the House Committee National Defense, told the Guardian there were plans to buy "big ticket items for the air force and Philippine navy."