$40M for Philippine maritime capability a 'US priority'
Camille Diola (The Philippine Star) - May 30, 2014 - 10:05am

MANILA, Philippines — The US Department of State has requested the approval of $40 million or P1.75 billion from the US Congress to boost the Philippines' maritime security and capabilities next year.

Daniel Russel, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, delivered a testimony before the House panel in Washington last week on President Barack Obama's 2015 budget request for Asia Pacific.

After giving an overview on progress of Obama's "rebalance" strategy to the region, Russel requested an additional $14.5 million for the Philippines under the state department's Foreign Military Financing program.

"This assistance will expand our support for the Philippines' efforts to improve its maritime security and maritime domain awareness, which is a US priority," Russel said.


Video: Assistant Secretary Daniel Russel testifies the Obama's administration's FY2015 budget for East Asian and Pacific affairs

Once approved, the US' budget for the Philippine military modernization will see a 57-percent increase from only $25.5 million in 2013.

In recent years, Manila has invested in additional military assets especially to boost its presence in the waters fiercely contested by neighboring China.

In a bid to develop credible armed forces especially in the maritime domain, the Department of National Defense last year acquired two US Coast Guard Hamilton ships, three new navy helicopters and 100 army tanks among others.

Russel put forward Obama's "commitment" to stand by the Philippines in recovering from the deadly super typhoon Yolanda with an additional $20 million.

"These targeted investments in our development and security assistance built on our full cadre of programming in the region to support our crucial policy goals," Russel said, referring to the major shift in America's foreign policy to East Asia and the Pacific.

Russel said Obama is seeking more than $156 million to back up maritime capacity-building of its Southeast Asian partners in the next two years.

He also sought continued resources to counter transnational organized crime and terrorist threats south of Sulu Sea between southern Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The US has five defense treaty allies in the region, namely the Philippines, Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Australia.

The Philippines and Japan are embroiled in maritime and territorial disputes with China, which the US is also seeking "greater cooperation" with.

"We also are investing in developing our relationship with China, where we seek to expand tangible and practical cooperation on a range of bilateral, regional, and global issues, while also constructively managing our differences," he said.

The US has been criticized for deepening its ties with its Asian partners to strengthen its posture in the Pacific, allegedly to contain China. Washington, however, has denied that the efforts are to restrain the Asian giant's rise.

ASIA PACIFIC ASSISTANT SECRETARY ASSISTANT SECRETARY DANIEL RUSSEL COAST GUARD HAMILTON DANIEL RUSSEL DEPARTMENT OF NATIONAL DEFENSE DEPARTMENT OF STATE EAST ASIA AND THE PACIFIC EAST ASIAN AND PACIFIC OBAMA
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