MANILA - The much-awaited arrival in August of the Philippines’ second warship BRP Ramon Alcaraz from the United States has been matched by Vietnam with its acquisition of two submarines from Russia.
On the other hand, a US lawmaker has been reportedly calling on Washington to sell conventional submarines to Taiwan.
“We are not girding to go to war with any country. Our capability upgrade program is only aimed at building a credible territorial defense for the country,” a senior security official said over the weekend, referring to an apparent arms race in the Asia-Pacific region.
Defense and security monitoring showed that two diesel-electric Kilo-Class submarines are to be turned over to the Vietnamese Navy this September by Russia’s Admiralty Shipyard under Vietnam’s $2-billion Project 635.
Meanwhile, Taiwan-based Central News Agency reported last Thursday that New Jersey Rep. Robert Andrews wrote US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, asking him to find ways to support Taiwan’s acquisition of diesel electric submarines.
“Yes, we are lagging behind in terms of military capability but on the positive note, our Navy will get another ship with the scheduled arrival of BRP Alcaraz to guard and defend the country’s maritime sovereignty” the official stressed.
BRP Alcaraz lifted anchor at South Carolina last week on her voyage to the Philippines after undergoing almost a year of refurbishment and retrofitting of its weapons.
The high endurance cutter was acquired by the Philippine Navy last year under the Excess Defense Article Military Assistance Program of the US.
Formerly called USS Dallas, the second Hamilton-class cutter is expected to be deployed in areas in the West Philippine Sea where China had been building up its presence.
The US delivered its first Hamilton-class cutter to the Philippines in December. Renamed BRP Gregorio del Pilar, the vessel – the Philippine Navy’s biggest – is now patrolling the West Philippine Sea, particularly near Recto Bank.
The Philippines, Brunei, China, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan have territorial claims in the Spratly archipelago.
To date, 18 Chinese surveillance vessels have been monitored in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. Three of these ships have taken up position near Ayungin Shoal.