On Tuesday, US President Barack Obama offered the Philippines a warship as part of an aid package to Southeast Asian allies worried about Chinese efforts to control the South China Sea, Yahoo! News reported.
Obama made the pledges aboard the Philippine Navy’s flagship, shortly after arriving in Manila for a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders to also be attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“We have a treaty obligation, an ironclad commitment to the defense of our ally, the Philippines. You can count on the United States,” Mr. Obama said. “My visit here underscores our shared commitment to the security of the waters of this region and to the freedom of navigation.”
“More capable navies and partnership with the United States are critical”, he added.
Speaking aboard the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, which used to be a U.S. Coast Guard cutter before it was handed over to the Philippines, Mr. Obama said the U.S. would send two more vessels—a research ship and a decommissioned US Coast Guard cutter to be turned into a new warship —to help boost the Philippines’s ability to patrol its waters and pledged to spend $259 million to bolster maritime security assistance among its allies and partners in the region.
The offers were aimed at reassuring allies that the United States was committed to maintaining security in the region’s waters, following Chinese artificial island building in parts of the South China Sea.
The Philippines, which has one of the weakest militaries in Asia and is the most vocal critic of China’s actions in the sea, will receive the most support under the US package.
He said the Philippines would also get a research vessel to help map its territorial waters while vowing US commitment to defend its longtime ally was “ironclad.”
“This will be a significant contribution for our maritime security capability,” Philippine Defense Department spokesman Peter Galvez said.