By Florante S. Solmerin | Jun. 15, 2013 at 12:02am
Amid rising tensions over territorial disputes with China in the West Philippine Sea, the government is planning to buy anti-aircraft guided missiles from Israel, reliable sources told the Manila Standard Friday.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the surface-to-air missiles or multiple launch rocket systems were being offered by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. and Israel Military Industries Ltd., both based in Israel.
“SAMs and MLRS are mobile anti-aircraft weapons designed against jet fighters,” the source said, adding that these had been suggested some time ago but had not been taken seriously because the defense establishment had no interest in investing at the time.
“Now, here comes the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea, and at last they’ve opened their eyes,” the source added.
Another source said Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin was planning to go to Israel next week to forge an agreement with the prospective suppliers.
“If you have an agreement this would hasten the procurement process, say in three to six months you would already have the weapons. The agreement gives you the leeway to access all the information you want know about a particular weapon you want to procure,” the source said.
Manila Standard tried to reach Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo and spokesman Peter Paul Galvez for confirmation, but both did not return calls or answer text messages.
In his first year in office, President Benigno Aquino III had released P75 billion to fund the upgrading of the military’s capability through the procurement of ships and aircraft.
Gazmin then said they had some 138 big-ticket defense items that were being considered on a government-to-government procurement basis.
Part of this buildup was the recent procurement of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz, a rehabilitated US Coast Guard cutter introduced in the 1960s.
The refurbished cutter, procured for will be the country’s most modern warship and is expected to arrive in July or August.
But Senator Gregorio Honasan seemed unimpressed with the extent of help offered by the United States, and called for a review of the US Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty, which he described as useless.
“We are not getting anything out of it. We have many international economic, military and security arrangements with other nations but why did they not say anything while the Scarborough Shoal standoff was heating up?” said the former Army colonel.
Because of this, Honasan said the country should abrogate all treaties that do nothing to help the country.
At the same time, however, he said a joint fishing agreement with Taiwan would be beneficial because it would afford protection to fishermen from both countries.
His remarks follow the May 9 fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman by Philippine Coast Guard personnel in the Balintang Channel that soured relations between Taiwan and the Philippines.
Also on Friday, the Foreign Affairs Department said it welcomed the filing of a resolution in the US Senate in support of a peaceful resolution to territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
“We understand that the resolution has yet to undergo the necessary congressional process before it is passed by the US Senate, nonetheless, we extend our appreciation on the mere fact that some US senators have deigned it necessary to express their views on a fundamental issue that affects the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region,” the department said in a statement.
“The Philippines especially appreciates the reaffirmation of the peaceful resolution of disputes, including through arbitration; its condemnation of the use of threat or use of force; its recognition of the significance of the role of ASEAN and of the code of conduct; and its support for the ongoing and deepening efforts of the US in the region relating to ensuring freedom of navigation, maintenance of peace and stability, and respect for universally recognized principles of international law.” With Macon Ramos-Araneta
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