Philippines Starts Latest Naval Modernization Attempt Amid South China Sea Tensions

Republic of the Philippines Navy ship BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150) conducts flight operations during Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2020. AFP Photo
Published February 28, 2024

Amid increasing tensions in the South China Sea with China and fears of how a conflict over Taiwan could jeopardize the country’s territories in the Luzon Strait, the Philippines is looking to prioritize its naval forces in a revised military modernization plan.

Despite Manila’s encounters with China in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, including the construction of several military bases on artificial islands, and run-ins with Chinese vessels over the last decade, the Armed Forces of the Philippines remains underequipped, experts agree.

“The Philippine Navy has lagged behind many of its Southeast Asian peers for decades as a consequence of relative neglect as the country focused then heavily on internal security. This also resulted, most crucially, a neglect of the country’s maritime domain. Philippine maritime interests, especially in the West Philippine Sea, have been compromised,” Collin Koh, a research fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies under the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, told USNI News.

Following the 2012 Scarborough Shoal Incident, which resulted in the effective Chinese occupation of the feature within the Philippine EEZ, Manila restarted a 1990s-era modernization act previously set aside due to financial constraints. The Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Act called for the procurement of equipment, particularly naval vessels and aircraft, to raise the AFP’s capabilities and deter further encroachment in the South China Sea.

The Philippine Navy was set to spend over $40 billion on procurements in two four-year and one five-year-long phases, known as “horizons,” between 2013 and 2028. Today, only a fraction of the spending originally planned has been executed. The armed forces failed to complete the first two horizon phases due to a lack of funds from the Philippine government and the COVID-19 Pandemic.



RELATED: Philippines To Explore Other Oil and Gas Areas amid China Tensions

Published February 28, 2024

The Philippines is looking to explore for oil and gas in areas other than the South China Sea where a territorial dispute with China has hindered exploration plans, the Philippine Energy Undersecretary Alessandro Sales told Bloomberg in an interview published on Wednesday.

“We are looking at the Sulu Sea area as the new exploration hot spot and there are companies now involved here,” Sales told Bloomberg.


The Philippines has been seeking to develop the Reed Bank area in the South China Sea, which hosts a stalled Philippine natural gas project, but the dispute with China has stalled any developments.

The long-running dispute in the South China Sea involves territorial claims by China as well as Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, and Malaysia. China has territorial claims to about 90% of the South China Sea, which has put it at odds with its neighbors.

A court in The Hague in 2016 ruled against China’s claims and in favor of the Philippines. The ruling said that the Philippines had sovereign rights in its 200-mile exclusive economic zone to access offshore oil and gas resources, including in the Reed Bank.

China, however, has not acknowledged the ruling, which has heightened tensions in the area. Instead, it has continued with its agenda, according to which most of the sea is Chinese waters.



RELATED: Philippines President Marcos Slams China While Visiting Australia

Published February 28, 2024




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71% of the earth is covered by ocean, water is a 1000 times denser than air and the mass of the oceans are 360 times that of the atmosphere, small temperature changes in the oceans doesn’t only modulate air temperature, but it also affect the CO2 level according to Henry’s Law.

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