US military aid to PH increases in 2015-2016
MANILA, Philippines – The United States poured into the Philippines a record amount of money for security assistance from 2015 to 2016, according to a Reuters report.
For the US fiscal year of October 1, 2015, to September 30, 2016, the US gave the Philippines over $127 million in security assistance. According to Reuters, it was the biggest sum given by the superpower to its Southeast Asian ally since American troops returned here in 2002.
The amount was a 154% increase from the military assistance that Washington gave Manila during the 2014-2015 fiscal year, which was pegged at around $50 million.
Citing information from the US embassy, Reuters reported that $50 million went to foreign military financing, $1.9 million to international military education and training, $42 million to maritime security initiative, and $33.2 million to counter terrorism activities.
“The aid boost went mostly into items such as communications equipment, small arms, replacement parts for hardware and coastal radar for maritime security,” read the Reuters report.
The disclosure comes as relations between the two countries entered a rather uncertain chapter, given President Rodrigo Duterte’s constant tirades against the Western power.
Duterte, who was elected in May 2016 elections, has resented the United States' criticism of his administration's war on drugs that have led to more than 6,000 deaths to date.
The report said America's increased spending on Philippine military aid was finalized when outgoing US President Barack Obama visited Manila in 2015, during the term of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III.
The US and the Philippines are longtime allies, particularly when it comes to the tension over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), which China practically claims as its own. The Reuters report noted that the amount was part of a “renewed commitment made to Manila in a 2014 Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).”
Duterte, meanwhile, has triggered an apparent pivot from the US to Russia and China. The President has said that he wants to procure equipment from those two countries rather than depend on the US.
Obama and Duterte were supposed to meet on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in September, but it was scrapped after Duterte’s harsh words directed toward the US.
The US president had said he would confront Duterte over the killings made in the name of his war on drugs. From July 1 to December 23, more than 6,000 deaths have been linked – either directly or indirectly – to the nationwide campaign against illegal drugs.
US politicians have expressed concern over the possible use of American money in the Philippine war on drugs.
"We urge the US to denounce these horrific violations of basic human rights, and ensure that no foreign assistance is being provided to support egregious acts against humanity," said Democrat senators Edward Markey and Chris Coons, and Republican Marco Rubio, according to Reuters.
The US has yet to finalize the military assistance for the Philippines in the coming fiscal year.
US concern over the killings in the drugs war may affect the Philippine National Police’s planned procurement of rifles from a US manufacturer. – Rappler.com