MANILA - The government should develop the ability to build its own ships to ensure that the military can secure its territorial waters from piracy and terrorism, Senator Richard Gordon said on Sunday.
"We are an archipelagic country; we should be able to build ships. We should have ships made in the Philippines in Cebu, in Hanjin in Subic," Gordon said in a statement.
"We should really make an effort to strengthen our military, because we are facing both internal and external threats."
Waters around Philippine island strongholds have been plagued by pro-Islamic State militants like the Abu Sayyaf Group, which have been involved in kidnapping and attacks on foreign cargo vessels.
Manila is also locked in a maritime dispute with Beijng, which has laid expansive claims to the South China Sea, home to the resource-rich Scarborough Shoal and Benham Rise.
President Rodrigo Duterte has deferred bringing up an arbitration ruling that invalidated Beijing's historic claims to the South China Sea as he sought trade and investment pledges.
Gordon said the government should "consistently assert our national territory, which includes Scarborough Shoal and Benham Rise, in no uncertain terms."
He also said the recent launching of the first-ever Subic-made class container vessel shows that Filipinos have the talent for shipbuilding.
Naval architectural designing, he added, should be included in the curriculum of the country's maritime institutions to step up Filipinos' craftsmanship in designing vessels.
"Building our own ships would be cheaper and it would give our naval architectural designers a chance to get what we want," the senator said.
"Our Navy and Coast Guard must have sufficient capability to patrol and protect our territory and sovereignty," he added.
The President has promised to make military modernization a priority, he noted.