MANILA (UPDATE) — A new unit has been created under the Philippine Navy for the country's external defense.
The Shore-Based Anti-Ship Missile Battalion or SBASM was activated at the headquarters of the Philippine Marines in Taguig City on April 3. It is the the first in the Marine Corps.
Headed by Lt. Col. Miguel Perez, the unit will use the new anti-ship missile system Manila acquired for nearly P19 billion from BrahMos Aerospace, a joint venture between India and Russia.
“The activation of SBASM will certainly add to drumbeat the heartbeat, and deliver the knockout punch for our archipelagic coastal defense capability,” said Marine commandant Maj. Gen. Nestor Herico.
He said the battalion would work on developing its own capabilities such as training and the construction of facilities to prepare for the arrival of the BrahMos system.
Its deliveries are expected to begin by next year, and Herico estimates the battalion's necessary facilities will be finished within 340 days.
National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier said the acquisition project included “the delivery of three batteries, training for operators and maintainers as well as the necessary Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) package.”
The activation of the SBASM comes after fresh tensions surfaced in the South China Sea, within which is the smaller West Philippine Sea.
The Philippine Coast Guard in late March accused its Chinese counterpart of steering one of its ships within meters of a Filipino patrol boat near the Scarborough Shoal. That came just weeks after Manila confronted Beijing's ambassador over a Chinese navy ship "lingering" in Philippine waters.
China has ignored a 2016 ruling by the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration that its historical claim to the area is without basis. It has reinforced its stance by building artificial islands over some contested reefs and installing weapons on them.
— With a report from Agence France-Presse