Philippines receives US arms
On 27 January the US delivered batches of infantry weapons and an unmanned vehicle system to the Philippines Armed Forces (AFP).
These were purchased by the Philippines through the Foreign Military Sales scheme and represent a significant increase in capability for the military, which is expanding and enhancing its counter-terror operations. It also shows that relations between the US and the Philippines in the defence field, are continuing despite the political drama.
This equipment included more than 400 M203 40mm grenade launchers, 85 M40A5 7.62mm sniper rifles and an AeroVironment RQ-11B Raven unmanned aerial (UAV) system to the Philippine Army and Philippine Marine Corps (PMC).
The deliveries took place at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. The US Embassy noted, ‘This equipment will help enhance the AFP’s counterterrorism capabilities, and protect Philippine security forces actively engaged in counterterrorism operations in the southern Philippines.’
The RQ-11B system comprises three UAVs and it was provided via a grant counterterrorism programme. The US explained, ‘As part of the grant, and in addition to the three unmanned aerial vehicles included in the Raven system, Philippine service members received training in the United States on its operations and maintenance.’
The AFP will own and operate the Raven system.
Of interest, under its Marine Fleet Imagery Targeting Support System programme, the PMC is already procuring the Super Swiper UAV from Emmen Aerospace via Triton Communications Corporation, a Philippine company. The hand-launched Super Swiper is due to be delivered to the marines by June 2017.
The US stated the late-January transfer of the aforementioned equipment demonstrated a bilateral commitment to ‘work towards safer communities and the eradication of global terror networks’.
The Philippines has long been reliant on the US for military equipment, whether new or second-hand. However, President Rodrigo Duterte is currently pursuing potential acquisitions from Russia and China.
Reflecting Duterte’s schizophrenic security policy, especially considering the acerbic vitriol from China over Philippine resistance to its South China Sea territorial claims last year, Duterte invited China to send sea patrols in the Sulu Sea to help counter Islamist militant activity.
Last year the Abu Sayyaf Group commenced a spate of attacks and kidnappings in poorly controlled waters off the southern coast of the Philippines between Malaysia and Indonesia.
Duterte told AFP commanders that he had requested that China ‘patrol the international waters without necessarily intruding into the territorial waters of countries’.
China has not yet formally responded, but it is likely to accept such an open invitation to both counter terrorism – which it is fighting on its home front in Xinjiang – and to bolster its presence in Southeast Asia.
The International Maritime Bureau recently highlighted the fact that kidnappings in the Sulu Sea are ‘a particular concern’. It reported that in the last quarter of 2016, twelve crewmen were kidnapped from two underway cargo vessels and an anchored fishing vessel, while in November a bulk carrier was fired upon. Earlier last year, crewmembers were kidnapped in three attacks on tugs and barges.
With criminals and terrorists targeting larger vessels and seizing ‘better-paying’ hostages, the organisation warned, ‘IMB advises charterers and owners to consider avoiding the Sulu Sea by routing vessels West of Kalimantan.’
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