Reports surfaced that the Philippine military was “ ramping up” its military spending amid a rising threat from China most clearly manifested in the saber-rattling by the two sides in the South China Sea. While the reports provide important updates about the status of Philippine military modernization, it is important to put then in broader perspective because it can otherwise mislead some.
The Philippine is in the middle of a 998 billion pesos 15 year plan to modernize its poorly equip armed forces in the face of rising tensions in the South China Sea. The military currently is seeking more than 520 billion pesos in the 15 year plan to 2022 to achieve a “full credible defense posture on the West Philippine Sea.”
The modernization program is designed to strengthen Philippines claims in the South China Sea, believed to be rich in multi-billion dollar energy deposits.
China has become increasingly assertive in the South China Sea, building artificial islands in areas over which the Philippines and the other countries have rival claims. The moves have sparked alarm Southeast Asian Nations and in United States.
China seized control the Mischief Reef (Kagitingan Reef) in 1995, and Scarborough Shoal in 2012 after a three-month stand-off with Philippine Navy and Coast guards ships.
Even as the Philippines builds up its capabilities over the next five years, it will take a long time for it to get closer to to some of neighbors, especially China. In general idea the Philippines should strengthen its defense capabilities to counter both internal and external threats.