Channel NewsAsia

Philippine Navy celebrates anniversary amid territorial dispute

Amid an ongoing territorial dispute with China, the Philippine Navy will on Tuesday celebrate its anniversary at a strategic naval base facing the South China Sea. President Benigno Aquino will attend as part of his government's visible push to try and modernise the country's defence forces.

MANILA: Amid an ongoing territorial dispute with China, the Philippine Navy will on Tuesday celebrate its anniversary at a strategic naval base facing the South China Sea. President Benigno Aquino will attend as part of his government's visible push to try and modernise the country's defence forces.

After acquiring two Hamilton class cutters from the United States, the Philippines wants to purchase two more navy ships from the US to boost its maritime capabilities.

The timing is important, amid increasing tension with China over disputed territories in the South China Sea.

The Philippine Navy estimates it needs at least six ships to patrol the country's long coastline.

Lieutenant Commander Gregory Fabic, a spokesperson for the Philippine Navy, said: "It is very important because the mandate of the Philippine Navy is really to protect our territory, protect the people, secure our sovereignty."

The government has allocated an initial US$1.7 billion for the modernisation of the country's armed forces, which includes the navy.

Under the plan, the navy will buy three multi-purpose attack crafts, two frigates, eight amphibious assault vehicles, as well as helicopters for the navy's air support group. This is in addition to improving its communication, intelligence and surveillance systems.

Also within the modernisation blueprint -- upgrading a naval base facing disputed waters in the South China Sea.

The military is in the process of building an US$11 million port at Ulugan Bay in Palawan -- the part of the country nearest to the disputed Spratly Islands.

Lt Cmdr Fabic said: "Before, it was only a detachment. We are now trying to develop this support facility for our big vessels, the deep draft vessels, so that they will have a safe harbour."

President Aquino is set to inspect the improvements being made at the naval station during the anniversary of the Philippine Navy on Tuesday.

However, the navy said the choice of location is aimed at highlighting the long-overdue necessity of improving its facilities -- not an attempt to aggravate China. 

Tweet Photos, Videos and Update on this Story to  #cna