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U.S To Help PH Face Threats

Chinese MIG jets buzz PAF planes near Palawan
By Manila Mail staff
As tension between China and the Philippines continues to rise over the Spratlys, US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas, Jr. declared during the visit of the USS Carl Vinson in Manila on May 16 that the United States is ready to stand by the Philippines in the event of threats to its security.

“This is a commitment born of our shared histories and close ties, and we are proud to stand by your side,” Thomas said at a reception on board the aircraft carrier which docked in Manila Bay after a mission in the Arabian Sea.

During the 4-day visit of the carrier that buried at sea the world’s No. 1 terrorist Osama bin Laden:

 

  1. Amb. Thomas announced that the US Navy had formally turned over a Hamilton-class coast guard cutter to the Philippine Navy which it said would be used to patrol the Reed Bank and the Malampaya area in the South China Sea.
  2. Two Chinese fighter jets buzzed two Philippine reconnaissance planes that were patrolling the Reed Bank near Palawan.
  3. Malacanang announced that the Reed Bank west of Palawan is Philippine territory and not part of the Spratlys.
  4. Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Oban said the Philippines is taking the same direction that China does in its capability buildup over the disputed territories in the South China Sea.
  5. Gen. Liang Guanglie, Minister of National Defense of China, arrived in Manila May 21 for a five-day official goodwill visit upon the invitation of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

Tension between the Philippines and China revved up last March following the execution of three Filipino drug mules and the Philippine agreement to a US suggestion that the Spratlys controversy be resolved multilaterally instead of individually with claimant nations. The US is concerned that China’s claim to all the islands would pose a serious threat to free navigation in the South China Sea.

China’s reaction was swift. It accused the US of meddling in a purely Asian problem. A few days later, China sent patrol boats to harass a Philippine contracted oil exploration ship in the Reed Bank (Kalayaan) islands. When Manila protested, China summarily rejected the protest and said the patrol boats were just safeguarding Chinese territory.

The US then conducted joint naval exercises with the navies of Vietnam and the Philippines, further angering China.
The buzzing of 2 PAF patrol planes by Chinese MIGs came three days before the US carrier arrived in Manila for a four-day goodwill visit.
During the reception on board the aircraft carrier in which top Philippine Armed Forces officials attended, Thomas said: “Now and in the future, we will maintain our strong relationship, and we are dedicated to being your partner whenever you are in harm’s way.”

Thomas also announced the turnover to the Philippines of the US Coast Guard cutter Hamilton in California.
The US ambassador said that “To that end, may bagong barko ang Hukbong Dagat ng Pilipinas. We are exceedingly proud that the ex-US Coast Guard cutter Hamilton – now named the Barko ng Pilipinas Gregorio del Pilar – was transferred to the Philippine Navy on May 13th. This is yet another example of the United States’ commitment to partnering with the Philippines,” he said.
In Alameda, California, May 13, Philippine ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr. presided at the turnover ceremonies for the coast guard cutter. Cuisia said this was “an indication of the robust Philippine-US partnership and proof of US commitment to help the Philippines protect its maritime domain.

It is considered a multi-mission vessel and will be capable of operations such as search and rescue, maritime security patrols and maritime law enforcement. Captain Alberto Cruz will command the vessel.
He is part of a group of eight officers and 13 enlisted personnel from the Philippine Navy, who are currently undergoing training with the US Coast Guard.
Sources at the Philippine Air Force said the two Chinese MIG 29 Fulcrum jet fighters intruded into the country’s air space on May 12 and buzzed two OV-10 Broncos patrolling the Reed Bank.
Gen. Oban said the the AFP does not view the incident as an act of bullying or provocation on the part of the Chinese, but a matter that could be addressed through diplomatic channels.

But Oban stressed this would not deter the AFP from enforcing its mandate to patrol the country’s skies and territorial waters.
He said the air patrols are intended to protect the nation’s territorial integrity as well as its maritime resources against violators of the country’s maritime laws.
Malacanang issued a statement that the Reed Bank over which the Chinese warplanes reported intruded is Philippine territory and not part of the Spratlys.
“We’ve been saying this quite consistently in the past few weeks that Reed Bank is not a disputed area, it is not part of Spratlys,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said over radio dzRB.
The two Chinese jet fighters reportedly buzzed two Philippine Air Force OV-10 Broncos on routine reconnaissance patrol in the area on Thursday last week.
Valte said the Philippine government is still verifying the incident and would take appropriate action, including filing a diplomatic protest, based on the results of investigation.
The Spratly Islands are being claimed in whole or in part by the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan.
Initial exploration of the Reed Bank by the DOE revealed that the area contains about 3.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 440 million barrels of oil. Earlier, China had proposed a joint exploration of the areas claimed by the Philippines.

The Chinese embassy in Manila declined to comment on the report that Chinese jet fighters buzzed over two PAF near the Kalayaan Island Group. The reported intrusion happened three days before the arrival in Manila of the USS Vinson.
Gen. Oban said May 19 the Philippines is beefing up its naval capabilities to strengthen its hold over disputed territories in the South China Sea. He said the Philippines has been taking the same direction that China does in its capability build-up.

Oban said most of 13 modernization projects for the military in 2011 are for the Philippine Navy, citing the immediate need to build its monitoring and detection capability, especially off Palawan. Moves include the acquisition of a landing craft utility, an upgrade of Jacinto-class patrol vessels and the patrol-killer medium craft and the acquisition of trucks for the mobilization of Marines.
And the Philippine Air Force will soon acquire a new aerial camera, combat utility helicopters, and basic trainer aircraft. The Army, which comprises most of the 120,000-strong armed forces, will get a new night fighting system and audio-visual system.

“As of now, we need to build up capability in terms of monitoring and detection. Our priority now in terms of capability development is to come up with an effective detection and monitoring system, most particularly in the Palawan area where we have vast maritime resources to protect,” Oban reiterated.

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