Thu May 3, 2012 6:59am EDT
* Manila urges U.S. to lift conditions on military aid
* Washington says will double military financing for Manila
* Pentagon agrees to share data on South China
By Manuel Mogato
MANILA, May 3 (Reuters) – The United States will nearly triple its military
funding for the Philippines this year, the Philippine foreign ministry said
on Thursday, as tensions rise with China over disputed islands and
Washington bolsters its alliance with Manila.
However, the Philippines expressed concern over what it said was a sharp
decline in its share of U.S. foreign military financing (FMF) despite
Manila’s central role in the U.S.’s military “pivot” back to Asia.
Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario said the Philippines accounted for over
70 percent of total FMF allocation for East Asia in 2006, compared to 35
percent this year.
“We hope this is not indicative of the priority placed on the Philippines
as a regional partner, as even non-treaty allies appear to be getting a
bigger share of the FMF allocation,” del Rosario said in a speech at the
Heritage Foundation in Washington, according to a foreign ministry
Del Rosario was in Washington for the first “two-plus-two” dialogue among
their foreign and defence secretaries as they look at ways to deepen ties
and help Manila build a “minimum credible defence posture”.
Washington agreed to provide $30 million in FMF this year, up from an
initial 2012 allocation of $15 million and from $11.9 million last year. In
2003, funding amounted to $50 million as Washington sent forces to help the
Philippines battle al Qaeda-linked militants.
The Philippines is offering the United States greater access to its
airfields and may open new areas for U.S. soldiers to use as it seeks
stronger military ties with its ally and faces rising tensions with China
in the maritime dispute.
The United States also agreed at the meeting to share “real-time” data on
the South China Sea, suggesting it will give Manila more of its
surveillance data on naval activity. The State Department also promised to
explore “creative funding streams” to help the Philippine military.
Del Rosario, who previously served as Manila’s ambassador to Washington,
also urged the U.S. to lift conditions on a portion of FMF allocation for
Since 2008, the United States has withheld the release of about $3 million
in military financing for the Philippines due to political killings and
human rights abuses.
He said the current government of President Benigno Aquino has already
taken significant steps to end these killings and has improved human rights
Since 2002, the Philippines has received nearly $500 million in military
aid from the United States, according to the U.S. embassy in Manila. The
amount does not include the transfer of 20 reconditioned helicopters, a
Cyclone-class ship and a Hamilton-class cutter.
A second Hamilton-class cutter will be transferred later this month and the
two sides are discussing the possibility of a third Hamilton-class ship and
a squadron of second-hand F-16 fighters. (Reporting By Manuel Mogato;
Editing by Stuart Grudgings and Jeremy Laurence)