Philippines President seeks US urgent help
Following increased tensions with China over territorial claims in the South China sea the Philippines President, Benigno Aquino III has visited the United States to ask for direct military support.
The United States has always had close ties with the Philippines and for many years after the Second World War they maintained military bases on the islands. In 1992 the US were asked to close their Subic Bay Naval Base just a year after the closure of Clark Air Base. With the closure of the two military bases the US presence diminished and since then the strength of the Philippines Military has also declined.
In 2010 a review of the Philippines Navy capability was carried out, but currently they have just two frigates, 11 corvettes and 41 small patrol craft to cover the 7,107 islands that make up the country. The air force is equally diminished in size and does not maintain a single jet fighter, although they do have a handful of Aermacchi S-211 jet trainers.
The military situation has become so dire that an urgent review of the Philippines defences has been called for this year. Meanwhile the President’s visit to the US appears panicky as the Chinese take an ever more strident line with a number of countries, including the Philippines in the South China Sea.
The Philippines are hoping for support with a US Navy P-3C Orion surveillance aircraft, further US Naval presence and support in establishing a land based radar presence.
The official statement from the White House as a conclusion to the visit is published in full below:
‘Today, the President met with Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III in the Oval Office. The Philippines is a close friend and a key economic and security partner for the United States. The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening the bilateral relationship. The U.S.-Philippines partnership is based on our shared history, democratic values, and mutual interests. It is rooted in our bilateral alliance, which has contributed to the stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region for over 60 years. Both leaders reaffirmed their mutual commitment to the peace and security of the region and to the U.S.-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.
The Presidents reviewed recent progress made in enhancing bilateral cooperation since their previous meeting at the East Asia Summit in November. They welcomed the outcomes of the Bilateral Strategic Dialogue and the first ever “2+2” ministerial consultation in April, including the commitments on regional strategic issues, security and economic cooperation, and supporting the rule of law.
President Obama reaffirmed the U.S. Government’s support for Philippine efforts to build a minimum credible defense posture, as evidenced by our transfer of a second U.S. Coast Guard Cutter to the Philippine Navy, support for the Philippine National Coast Watch System, and the growing number of bilateral exercises and training programs.
The Presidents agreed to build on our successful security cooperation on counterterrorism by expanding efforts to enhance joint military capabilities and interoperability in humanitarian assistance, as well as in the areas of disaster relief, maritime security, and maritime domain awareness. President Obama recognized President Aquino’s commitment to peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and to ensuring a peaceful and prosperous future for Mindanao.
The leaders acknowledged the importance of a strong economic relationship to both sides, and committed to redouble efforts to bolster and deepen efforts to expand bilateral trade and promote greater trade and economic integration in the Asia Pacific. In particular, President Obama noted the positive trade dialogue taking place under the bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement and the importance of expanding bilateral trade in key agricultural products of interest to both countries.
The President welcomed President Aquino’s commitment to the Partnership for Growth as a catalyzing joint effort to promote anti-corruption and rule of law, improved fiscal performance and regulatory quality, and inclusive economic growth. They agreed to continue to push for progress on good governance and transparency in the Open Government Partnership and through implementation of the Philippines Millennium Challenge Corporation compact grant. They also welcomed the signing of a Science and Technology agreement that will help boost innovation by facilitating collaborative scientific activities and promoting the exchange of ideas, information, skills and technology.
The President underscored the importance of the long and close ties between the people of the United States and the Philippines, as well as the significant contributions our people have made to each other’s security, prosperity and culture. They each pledged to continue to deepen those ties through continued educational and cultural exchanges, and welcomed the founding of the U.S.-Philippines Society to further build bilateral ties.
President Aquino welcomed the renewed U.S. strategic focus and rebalancing in the Asia Pacific Region, as well as active participation in the U.S.-ASEAN Leaders Meeting and other regional fora. President Obama thanked President Aquino for his role as U.S.-ASEAN Dialogue Partner in facilitating the United States’ participation in the East Asia Summit for the first time last year.
President Aquino briefed the President on regional developments, including the situation in the South China Sea. They underscored the importance of the principles of ensuring freedom of navigation, respect for international law, and unimpeded lawful commerce. They expressed firm support for a collaborative diplomatic process among claimants to resolve territorial disputes in a manner consistent with international law and without coercion or the use of force. President Obama conveyed his support for the ongoing efforts within ASEAN to reach an agreement with China on a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea that creates a rules-based framework for managing and regulating the conduct of parties, including preventing and managing disputes.
Finally, President Obama and President Aquino committed to maintaining the intensified pace and scope of our bilateral engagement established over the last two years through sustained strategic dialogue and joint activities, in the spirit of mutual respect and mutual responsibility.’