Thursday, August 1, 2013

Chinese paper hits AFP move to Subic

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 China believes the Philippine plan to relocate major air force and navy bases to the former US naval base in Subic Bay in the West Philippine Sea is aimed at increasing pressure on it and bringing in more outside forces to the region.
In a report in the state-owned newspaper China Daily, Li Guoqiang, deputy director of the Center for Chinese Borderland History and Geography at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the Philippines is building up and concentrating military forces near the South China Sea to target China.
“If all related parties resort to military means as Manila has for a resolution, the region will surely become a powder keg,” Li said.
Li sees the move as a violation of the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and increases the risk of conflict in the region, the report added.
At the 46th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Ministerial Meeting in Brunei, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said the persistence of destabilizing actions in the West Philippine Sea continues to pose serious challenges for the whole region and is a violation of the DOC.
Del Rosario rebuffed Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s allegations against the Philippines at the regional security forum.
Headlines ( Article MRec )
s u Hao, a professor of Asia-Pacific Studies at China Foreign Affairs University, said external forces that share the Philippines’ goal of containing China are complicating the regional South China Sea issue.
“What Manila sometimes did was to meet the needs of Washington and US allies, to seek more support from them,” he said.

The report, quoting the US-based Military Times website, said with the Pentagon’s strategic focus shifting to the Pacific, the Philippine bases are an ideal stopping point that is roughly 1,600 kilometers west of Guam, where four US ships are based.
Media quoted Carl Baker, a Hawaii-based defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, as saying: “With this recognition of an existential threat from China, I think there’s much more interest in having the US presence.”
However, Su said the role the US can play in the future is still unclear.
“The US would like to see Manila posing threats to China or to back Manila behind the scenes, but it is reluctant to have open conflicts with China,” he said.
The China Daily report cited a statement of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin that as soon as funding is available, the Philippine government plans to transfer air and naval forces, with their aircraft and warships, to Subic Bay, northwest of Manila, to gain faster access to the South China Sea.
The report cited a confidential defense department document obtained by The Associated Press that stated Subic’s location will cut the time it takes for fighter aircraft to get to the South China Sea by more than three minutes, compared with flying from Clark Air Base, north of Manila, where some air force planes are currently based.
Subic Bay’s natural deep harbor can also accommodate two large warships that the Philippines recently acquired from the US.
Visiting US forces, ships and aircraft will also be granted temporary access to more military camps to allow for more joint exercises than are currently held, the media reported.
Air Force vice commander Maj. Gen. Raul Dimatatac told The STAR that 12 fighter jets to be acquired would be stationed in the Air Force base to be established in Subic Bay.
“There will be two phases (involved in the transfer to Subic),” he said. “The first involves our minimum requirements so that when the fighters come in, we will be able to operate the aircraft.”
Dimatatac said the second phase will involve the actual transfer of the fighter base and units from Clark to Subic Bay.
“We already have proposals and we are looking forward that ultimately, once everything is settled, we’ll be able to transfer to Subic,” he said.
Defense department spokesman Peter Galvez said Subic Bay has deep water port that could accommodate large Navy frigates.
Dimatatac said Subic Bay already has a runway and a parking ramp.
The hangars require some repairs so that they could operate the fighter jets, he added.
The defense department plans to spend P18.9 billion for the procurement of 12 FA-50 fighter jets for the Air Force.
Its Bids and Awards Committee had approved the terms of reference for the acquisition of the jets.
It is awaiting the approval from MalacaƱang of the project’s sales agreement.
Once the sales agreement is crafted, the defense department can begin negotiations with the supplier, Korean Aerospace Industries. – Pia Lee-Brago, Alexis Romero

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