MANILA, Philippines—A lawmaker on Thursday (March 25) called on Congress to provide “additional appropriations” that may be needed by the Philippine Navy to expedite its acquisition of new warships, amid China’s continued incursions in the West Philippine Sea.
Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, chairperson of the House committee on strategic intelligence, said the Department of National Defense (DND) should advance its plans to procure 16 new warships by at least three years.
He urged the military to fine-tune its upgrade program and give priority to acquiring four frigates and 12 corvettes, referring to the Navy’s desired force mix, or their target acquisitions in the next few years.
“Instead of getting these 16 new combat ships in phases between now and 2028, the Navy should get them all by 2025,” Pimentel said in a statement.
“In the annual national budgets from 2022 to 2025, Congress should also provide the additional appropriations needed for the Navy’s expedited acquisition of the new warships,” he said.
The Navy is currently setting its sights on six offshore patrol vessels, two corvettes and several smaller boats for coastal patrol, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said.
“We have lined up the acquisition but the pandemic intervened. But it is a welcome development if Congress will allocate money for these assets,” he told INQUIRER.net.
To boost defense capacity, the Philippines is also seeking to acquire military hardware like multi-role fighter jets, submarines, land-based missile systems, all of which have no funding yet.
“In an ideal world, this is where the Philippine Navy can use the submarines they’re proposing to buy for surveillance and deterrence,” said Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon, chair of the House committee on national defense and security on Twitter shortly after the incursion of more than 200 Chinese vessels in Julian Felipe Reef was reported over the weekend.
Defense and Navy officials visited France earlier this month, where they were given a commitment of assistance in building a submarine force. The Navy intends to acquire two submarines as part of its upgrade plan. This is one of the projects already approved by President Rodrigo Duterte but lacked funding.
So far, the Philippine military remained behind in the second stage of its capability upgrade program, also called Horizon 2. It has a timetable of 2018 until 2022, and was designed to achieve minimum credible defense capability.
Lorenzana earlier said the Philippines would no longer be bullied if it had a minimum credible defense posture because they could give a “bloody nose” to an adversary.
While the Philippine military is behind its goals as it reaches the penultimate year of Horizon 2, the military has received deliveries of several equipment in the past several months, including donations from the US government.
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