The Philippines said Wednesday it has asked the United States to supply its armed forces with patrol boats and aircraft as well as radar systems amid an escalating territorial dispute with China.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said the hardware would help his country achieve a “minimum credible defense,” a phrase he used in unprecedented talks with senior US officials in Washington earlier this week.
“We need to know what’s going on around us. That’s maritime domain awareness,” del Rosario said in answer to a question following a speech at The Heritage Foundation think tank.
“And we also need to deter any additional incursions into our seas where we have sovereign rights,” the chief Philippine diplomat said, referring to its dispute with China in the South China Sea.
“We are submitting a list of hardware that the US can help us out with. This would be in terms of patrol vessels, patrol aircraft, radar systems, coast watch stations,” del Rosario said.
“We’re looking for assistance from other international partners who have also been very forthcoming,” he added.
In his speech, del Rosario said the Philippines was strengthening its partnerships with Japan, Australia, South Korea and others in areas like maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
While awaiting new hardware, he said it is important for the Philippines and its treaty ally the United States to continue to conduct military exercises “in a better way, in more locations, in a more frequent manner.”
The two nations, which completed extensive war games earlier this month, are bound by a mutual defense treaty in which the United States has pledged to come to the aid of its weaker ally if it faces military aggression.
“The US needs a stronger ally in the region who will be able to take on a bigger share of guaranteeing the stability of that region,” del Rosario said in his speech.
“It is therefore in the strategic interest of the US to invest in the development of the Philippines’ defense and military capability,” he said.
“For the Philippines, the tension in the West Philippines Sea are particularly challenging,” he said.
The Philippines and China have been embroiled in a dispute over a shoal in the South China Sea, or West Philippines Sea, with both nations stationing vessels there for nearly three weeks to assert their sovereignty.
The Philippines says Scarborough Shoal is its territory because it falls well within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, as recognized by international law.
The Philippines has called for arbitration through the United Nations to end the dispute, but China has refused.